Fifth-Graders Visit the Twilight Zone
by Doug Sutton
On December 1‒3, 2010, my wife Anne Serling brought another dimension to the Binghamton School District’s “5th Dimension,” an innovative program that uses the parables of various Twilight Zone episodes to promote discussion of social issues such as prejudice, scapegoating, and mob mentality.
The purpose of Anne visiting the fifth-graders in seven different elementary schools was to expose the kids to the non-celebrity side of her father and give them the opportunity to personally question her, which they did. Anne started out by showing a number of old family pictures and told them about what a regular family life she experienced growing up sheltered from the trappings of celebrity. She described how funny her father could be, how much he loved animals, and how he was always concerned about social injustice.
After the slide show, she asked them how many wanted to be writers, talked about perseverance and popular books that were rejected numerous times before being published, and read a short excerpt from her upcoming book about her father. Then the Q&A session began, first with prepared questions about the Twilight Zone episodes the students were watching. Anne followed these by asking them how they would change the endings, which drew a huge response in every classroom.
Passing the plaque of her father’s Hollywood Walk Star and a couple of family photos among the students, Anne fielded more personal questions, such as, “What is your favorite color?” ... “What things did you and your dad do together?” … “Did your house smell with all the animals?” and the classic, “What Twilight Zone episode best describes your family?”
Each session ended with Anne applauding both students and teachers, explaining that although her father won many awards including six Emmys and a Peabody—that he would consider their 5th Dimension program to be his greatest accolade, and how much he would have loved being here with them.
You could tell: the students understood the relevance of Twilight Zone parables to the society that they live in today, and that is a huge compliment to the program and the teachers who are so passionate about teaching it.