by H. Linn Murphy
I realize I'm a day late and a dollar short, but hopefully this will be worth the time.[Edited to adjust appearance date]
Recently I went up against my son's history teacher because she insists on showing R-rated movies. So after her intransigence on the subject, I decide my son would benefit by a sane teacher and switched him.
This morning my son brought me a new syllabus to sign. On it was a list of movies this new history teacher insists on showing. They were the same movies. Shindler's List, The Patriot, Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, and a slew of others. I politely asked that the teacher desist from showing my son R-rated movies and please provide alternative assignments. I don't care if my kid has to write fifteen page papers.
So I want to ask, "What the crud?" Why do these people who already hog most of my son's waking hours think it's fine to fill my son's head with vicious garbage?
Why? Because not enough parents are standing up and yelling "Stop!"
"These movies," they contend, "are cross sections of the times. They provide a vivid account of the happenings of the day."
I say "Wrong!" These movies are full of violence, sex, bad language, and hideousness for a reason. Hollywood wants to titillate audiences into spending their $12 for a movie ticket. They add salaciousness to the mix for the express purpose of selling movies.
Such trash has no business being pushed in a school setting. Teens are already trying desperately to find what is real and what is fiction. At that age, it is often difficult to navigate through the shoals. If we send them to school to see these movies, we are agreeing that what their teachers are providing is the truth, real, and unvarnished.
We are telling our sons and daughters that it is alright by us if they solve their problems the same way as the fictional character in the movie. Only kids don't see them as fictional. Movies are so real-looking that the lines are completely blurred. We should give our kids the means to know that what they are seeing may not be how it really is/was. We need to equip them with a knowledge of how to get to the truth and dig beneath the slimy coating.
I include a huge cross section of today's books in this mash-up. Books can be every bit as vivid as a movie.
I recently read an article taken from a speech given by Meghan Cox Gurdon. She is a children's book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal since 2005 and has also appeared in several other prestigious publications. She was verbally flayed for writing "...in the four decades since Young Adult became a distinct category in fiction, (it has) become increasingly lurid, grotesque, profane, sexual, and ugly." Several hundred people complained that she was advocating a return to book-burning. She suffered a hailstorm of complaint tweets. Don't even get me started on the duality of the detractors' mindsets on the second amendment.
But it's true. Some of the most popular books for Young Adults today feature rape, drug usage, self-inflicted violence, teen pregnancy, mucky language, and/or gore. Hunger Games featured children being forced to kill each other for the salacious viewing of the rest of society. Scars is about a cutter whose father hopes she'll cut herself to death. Fifty Shades of Gray features S&M. I'd go on with loads of other titles, but I'd rather not tout the rawness of these negative books.
How can we bring well-adjusted children to adulthood complete with coping mechanisms when they have no examples to follow? Where are the real heroes for them to follow? Why do teachers go straight to the gore and bypass those who have worked tirelessly to do what is right?
Later Ms. Gurdon goes on to quote Emily Bazelon's book about bullying: "When kids understand that cruelty isn't the norm, they're less likely to be cruel themselves."
That's an interesting statement. At my son's school, there are sometimes nine (9) fights a day! Perhaps it is because their teachers insist on filling their waking hours with horror, bloodshed, and mayhem instead of teaching them the real lessons history has for them. I can only think that the truth is not their intent.
Children learn history so that they won't make the mistakes of those who
went before. To learn those lessons, they don't have to have the vision
of full frontal nudity crammed into their eyes. They don't have to hear the heart-wrenching shrieks of people being tortured to death. What we're doing to our
kids is akin to clamping them to a chair with arms and legs bound and
toothpicks in their eyelids so they must see every detail of brutality
We need teachers to teach a child how to lift himself out of the mire instead of wallowing in it. Where are the teachers who can illuminate in such a way as to catch a child's imagination and spur them on to transcending the laziness and apathy of their childhood? We need them to pair up with the parents to give children coping skills for the violence they already witness around them, not add more. We've got to fill our offspring so full of beauty and light that they can't help but look up. I know this can happen, because the other side is winning by being captivating, challenging, and fun. It can be done.
It is possible to spark a child's interest in history. We just have to do it so that the students know it's real and truthful and poignant. A great teacher brings those people to life. We have to care about bringing up intelligent, well-adjusted children. If a person simply wants a paycheck for babysitting, they should try an after-school job. Or better yet, get a job as a dock worker.
I suggest you read or listen to the rest of Ms. Gurdon's speech. It's well-thought out and eye-opening.
We need torch-bearers, not torch slingers.