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When Censorship Meets Curriculum

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One of my extra-curricular activities during my internship is lunchroom supervision for the senior students. While a major amount of work on my part comes from cleaning up and ensuring students are behaving, another considerable factor is deciding what movies to show during the 45 minutes that we have with the students. As a reward for good behaviour – and as a means to keep the students relatively silent – we play a movie on the the library projector for the students to watch while they eat. Although using the movie rating on the back of the box is easy to follow for my group of Grade 4-8 students, I am rather torn as to what to do in my Grade 6/7 classroom under some situations.

For example, I am currently working through a Health unit on Body Image and Bullying. While most of the learning activities involve interaction and discussion, I have a strong conflict of conscience when it comes to my initially planned culminating activities. To conclude the Body Image portion of this unit, I intend on showing a video that I have shown numerous times before called Killing Us Softly. The video focuses on the sexual display of men and women in advertising and what makes them appear ideal.

The concluding activity to this part of the unit is creating a collage from magazine advertisements which show men and women in this way. The aim for this project is to have children realize that these types of images surround them at all times and make them aware of it. In terms of connecting this activity to the curriculum, there are two outcomes from the Grade 6 curriculum – USC 6.5 and CP 6.10. Below are two examples of previous students’ work when doing this activity.

Collage 001  Collage 002

To wrap up the Bullying aspect of the unit, I was hoping to show a movie to my students which centers around the issue. The movie is called Bully. This movie provides a very blunt, unadulterated look into the world of elementary school bullying.

The movie encountered great controversy when being released as the Motion Picture Association of America and the film’s producers could not agree on a rating for the film. While the producers felt that it was a very important issue that all students should be able to see, the MPAA felt that the content of the movie warranted a rating of NC-17, which is one of the highest possible ratings the film could have received. The movie was then giving a “Not Rated” by the producers, and eventually lowered to PG-13 due to public pressure on the issue.

This is where the issue of showing the film in the classroom rises. Based on the initial ratings, it can clearly show that there is very serious content in the film. Although this is the case, the content of the movie is very important to young students. According to the Parents Guide on IMDB, there is a laundry list of violence, profanity, and frightening scenes. At the bottom of the page, it says the following:

Despite the fact that this film received an R rating for language, the rating has been challenged by many people for being inappropriate.

The main topic of the documentary is bullying, and how it can effect people and destroy their lives. It portrays bullying in a negative light, and should be seen by kids so they know that bullying is wrong.

The recommended age for this film is: 12+, though to be honest, some 10/11 yr olds might be able to handle the film and its serious and often disturbing subjects.

In the end, I feel that this situation ultimately boils down to your school and administration. Depending on the situation in your school, it may be more welcome than in some others. Personally, I feel that sensitive matters as these definitely do have a place in the classroom, if put in the proper context. I would much rather use a potentially provocative video to teach my students about the way the media inaccurately portrays women than have them open a magazine or watch a commercial and feel that that is “normal”.

No matter where you are situated, there is bound to be someone who may be offended by something. The key lies in how you deal with it when the conflict arises. In most cases, I believe a simple letter home may be the most efficient solution.

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