Banning Movies at School Hurts Your Child

A recent article in 'USA Today' described the struggles of school districts around the nation as they attempt to define whether or not to show certain movies to students. Unfortunately, the controversy is too often tied to a handful of complaints from parent who want movies banned without regard for their value in the classroom.

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The Case Against Movies in School

It's rare to hear students complain about watching movies in class. More common are complaints from parents. The issue typically boils down to the appropriateness of the content in comparison to the educational value of the films. Many teachers desire to incorporate films into their classes in order to help students understand the material. For example, Schindler's List teaches students about the suffering of Jews during World War II, Glory recounts the nation's first all-black regiment during the Civil War and Platoon provides a gripping account of the Vietnam War.

When parents complain, they usually focus on the violence, language and sex that these films might contain. One of these parents is Diana Nolan, who was featured in the USA Today story and is the president of Parent Active in Responsible Education, a group that fights the showing of R-rated movies in southern Pennsylvania's Council Rock School District. She argues that these movies can be emotionally and mentally traumatizing for children. Active parents like Ms. Nolan have encouraged many schools to either ban such movies or require parental permission slips.

Flaws in the Logic

It's true that many of the films teachers use in the classroom contain disturbing content. The films that are most often cited are war films, which can contain graphic violence. Yet those arguing against showing the films too casually dismiss their educational merit. These films provide students with a deeper understanding of history than they can get from simply reading about it in their textbooks. Furthermore, as many students are either visual or multimodal learners, balancing lectures, readings and films is an excellent way to reach all students in the classroom.

A film like Schindler's List shows students the horrors of the Holocaust in vivid detail, allowing students to better visualize what occurred. While World War II may seem impossibly long ago to modern high school students, older wars can be even more inaccessible and ancient-seeming. This makes a film like Glory incredibly useful, especially when it's produced with such keen attention to historical accuracy.

The argument against exposing children to violence is likewise flawed. It's a disingenuous form a censorship that limits students' understanding of the world around them. Studying world history necessarily involves learning about wars, atrocities and genocides. When teaching about these events, it's the obligation of teachers to convey to students what occurred in a way they'll comprehend. If Schindler's List helps shine a light on how Nazi Germany went about exterminating millions of innocent people, one of the most significant events of the 20th century, then it and all other films that serve a similar purpose are essential in the classroom.

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