Daily Archives: May 14, 2007

Yes and No

images1.jpegIt seems that a 12 year old and her guardians are suing the girl’s Chicago school district because a substitute teacher showed the film Brokeback Mountain to an 8th grade class. They’re asking for $500,000 in damages. Half a million, People. Seriously.

Now, if it’s true that the school did not have parental permission to show the film, which is rated R, then there should be some repercussions. Unless your audience is over 17 and understands that they are free to leave the showing at any time with impunity, it is unreasonable and irresponsible to show an R rated movie in class. When I worked in a public school, we were required to send home permissions slips to parents before showing anything that wasn’t rated G. Not only that, we were required to state, on the permission form, the reasons we felt that the film was important to the lessons we were teaching at the time; we had to make the case for the relevance of the film as part of an academic unit. I think this is entirely fair and rational.

I also think that there are a lot of good arguments for showing films in the classroom, and that a lot of really great, classroom-appropriate films – most of them, really – are rated R. I also happen to think that Brokeback Mountain is an exquisite film that would have a great deal of value as part of a language arts or social studies curriculum. Since the article doesn’t state anything beyond the plaintiff’s perspective, I don’t know what the point of the film was in the class. I don’t know what class the movie was shown in and I don’t know what academic justification was used to show it. I wish I did, but the (poor) journalism in the news report isn’t giving me any clues.

I don’t think that the substitute should have shown the film without being certain that the appropriate permission forms were completed and in hand. Having said that, I also think that it’s absolutely preposterous that this 12 year old was so incredibly damaged by the film that she requires therapy and half a million to make her all better.

My humble assessment is that there are no blameless parties in this story. The school should have been more responsible about getting parental permission before showing the film. The guardians of this girl should have been more vigilant about what was happening in the classroom (and, I think, should have been more responsible about teaching her enough so that a tastefully scripted and acted film didn’t scar her for life, but that’s fodder for another post). My sincere hope is that whatever judge ends up with this nonsense on her docket has the good sense to give both parties a slap on the wrist and send them all home.

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Filed under concerns, General Griping, Questions, Uncategorized

This is SO Wrong!

Check this out:photo-virginia-madsen.jpg

Virginia Madsen’s high school theater teacher, Suzanne Adams, has always been a free spirit. She studied in Switzerland. Acted in Chicago. Helped found a performing arts school in Uganda. And directed Virginia to higher planes. “She gave me the courage to be me—and all of the me’s inside me.” Behind every famous person is a fabulous teacher.

This is an advertisement for teacherscount.org. Their mission, according to the statement on the website, is to “raise the status of the teaching profession and provide resources to the education community.” I think this is fantastic, so what’s my problem?

Where do I begin? First of all, this is an ad to promote teaching, and just LOOK at that grammar! Fragmented sentences all over the place. And “ME’S”?! That’s not even a word – and, if it were, it wouldn’t have a F**KING APOSTROPHE!

A lot of you have commented, quite eloquently, that teachers are fighting a losing battle on nearly all fronts, not the least of which is against popular culture. We can’t teach students to do/think/write one way in the classroom if those lessons are constantly and enthusiastically being countered out in the real world. If organizations like this one are using – and publishing – such lazy language, why SHOULD our students bother to learn what we’re trying to teach them?

Here’s the letter I’m writing to the Teacherscount.org people. Please read / edit / make suggestions to it so I know that I’m sending the most effective combination of praise and protest that I can:

Dear Teacherscount.org:

I’m writing to you to simultaneously commend you for bringing the value and importance of the work teachers do to national attention and to criticize you for the manner in which one of your ads is written.

The ad featuring Virginia Madsen and Suzanne Adams reads, and I quote:

Virginia Madsen’s high school theater teacher, Suzanne Adams, has always been a free spirit. She studied in Switzerland. Acted in Chicago. Helped found a performing arts school in Uganda. And directed Virginia to higher planes. “She gave me the courage to be me—and all of the me’s inside me.” Behind every famous person is a fabulous teacher.

I am an English teacher, and I take issue with the grammar in this paragraph. Three of the seven sentences in the advertisement are fragments. These structures have no subjects. I’m certain that the writers were assuming that Ms. Adams would be the understood subject of those fragments, but a third person (he, she, it) is not a grammatically accepted use of understood subjects. All of these errors could be easily fixed by connecting the fragments to the “she studied in Switzerland” sentence with commas.

Please don’t misunderstand; I think that the intent of your campaign is laudable. Teachers are not generally well respected in our society and I think that trend is continuing, if not worsening. I am pleased to see organizations like yours calling attention to the important role that teachers can play in students’ lives.

I also know, however, how difficult teachers’ jobs are, and how those jobs are often made more challenging because of popular culture and its seeming disregard for convention and propriety. How can we expect our students to learn to use our language properly if they continue to see and hear it misused in ads, movies, and music? If we can’t set a good example, we have no grounds to criticize our students for failing to learn, retain, and use what we’re trying to teach them. I would hope that your organization in particular would be sensitive to this.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Chili

I just can’t let this one go.

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Filed under concerns, General Griping