R-Rated Classroom?

English: "R" rating of Motion Pictur...Here is a dilemma–not mine, thank goodness, though it easily could be. This came from friends in Wisconsin. Their 16-year-old child’s Spanish teacher sent home a permission slip that said, “We are going to watch several R-rated movies in class this year. The first one is Frida with Selma Hayek.”

“What would you do?” my friends asked.

My first thought was: How are they allowed to show R-rated movies in school? My second thought was, okay, maybe it’s not so bad. After all, The King’s Speech was rated R, but when I researched why, it was only for the non-gratuitous use of the F-word, said several times during the course of the main character’s speech therapy. Legitimate use, in my opinion. So, I made the decision to let my then 14-year-old see the movie. Maybe Frida was the same?

Cover of "Frida"

A suitable movie to show in school?

Uh, no. I went to kids-in-mind.com to check it out. This has been my go-to website to check out movies before I let my kids see them, though I’ve gone there less often as my kids have gotten older. The site scores movies based on the amount of sex/nudity, violence/gore, and profanity they contain. The scores are out of 10. Frida scores 7/7/6. The movie focuses on the artist’s “rocky and often abusive relationship with her husband and fellow artist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), her bisexuality, medical problems and the drug and alcohol abuse that killed her at age 47.”

Hmm. Next, I would watch the movie myself. My friends did. The movie apparently earns its R rating immediately–the first several minutes are a graphic sex scene. Right there I’m thinking how is this appropriate for school? Okay, she’s a famous Mexican artist. Okay, the movie is the Spanish language version and it is a Spanish class. But, how is it okay to show this in school?

The King's Speech

I made a personal decision to let my son see this movie, but is it appropriate for the classroom?

You could argue that kids these days have seen everything, but is that really true? I know my husband and I were pretty adamant about not letting our kids see PG-13 movies until they were at least 13. We used the ratings as a guide, and I would like to think we were not the only parents monitoring what our children watched. We made exceptions, of course, as with The King’s Speech. When Lord of the Rings came out, my older son was 11. He so wanted to see that movie. My husband and I checked it out and decided that he could see the movie, with us, only after he read the book. The same held true for The Two Towers, which was much more violent, even though he was over 13 by then.

My thinking is that once you see something, you can’t un-see it. It’s there, in your brain, forever. At what age, then, do you want your children to see drug addicts shooting up, men and women having sex, a husband beating up his wife, parents beating up their children, one human murdering another, etc.? “Values” is such a charged word these days, but truly, this comes down to the values of parents. I don’t want to condemn anyone’s values. Each child’s parents get to decide what their child sees, and that’s just fine–each family is different. But what about when you have children all from different families in one place, like a classroom?

English: Fairport High School Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Well, that’s what the permission slip is for, right? But what happens to the child whose parents decide that the movie is not something they are comfortable with their child seeing? The child is singled out, dismissed to the library. Does the child get teased, stigmatized, ostracized? Kids being kids, likely so, to some degree. And what additional grief is there for the child who already has a hard time fitting in, who already faces tormentors every day?

My next step would be to speak to the teacher and/or the principal. A hard choice for my friends, I think, because they live in a very small community, and word gets around.

What a horrible position for a school to put parents in. What do you do? Be true to your values and risk your child’s emotional well-being and sense of belonging? Or compromise your values, knowing that your child will be seeing something on the screen that he or she can never un-see, that some little bit of innocence will have been torn away by the time the school day ends? Not to mention the fact that your son or daughter will be well aware that you compromised your values. What message does that send?

Schindler's List

Schindler’s List–would this R-rated movie be okay to show to 16-year-olds?

For me, what it really comes down to is this: Permission slip or not, is it appropriate to show R-rated movies in the classroom? In my opinion, no. I am a liberal, but speaking as a parent, no politics involved, R-rated movies have no place in a classroom. It shouldn’t even be an option with a permission slip.

But, that’s my opinion, and I’m open to the idea that there could be exceptions. What’s your opinion? And what would you do if this was your child’s high school Spanish class? And, something else to consider–does it make a difference if your child is a boy or a girl? Is there an R-rated movie out there that you think would be okay to show in class?

About Jeannette Monahan

A writer sidetracked by life, with a husband and two boys who shine brighter than Arizona sunshine. Visit me at my blogs: jeannettemonahan.wordpress.com or jmmonahan.wordpress.com. You are always welcome.
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9 Responses to R-Rated Classroom?

  1. pharphelonus says:

    I would say no and be ticked off and would wonder, first, why the teacher needs so many movies to teach, and second, why is he qualified to show that type of movie? You’ve seen 16 year old girls. Is he a creep, perhaps? If it was health education, and there was going to be serious discussion about all the stuff they saw, MAYBE, but even then not so sure. I have boys, but what if one of the girls in the class is known to be promiscuous because she had sex with a kid, and he told his friends, who told their friends, etc. How’s she going to feel when someone says, `Hey look, it’s Stacy.’ There’s a line, I believe, in how much control we should give schools, and this crosses it., Great post.

    • Hank, I should have added that the teacher is a woman. But I don’t think that makes a difference. When I was searching for information an article I read quoted some principal as saying if you need to get a parent’s permission to show something in school, it probably shouldn’t be shown. (Health and sex ed. excepted, though. Necessary, but probably need a permission slip.)

  2. Subtlekate says:

    This is a difficult position to put a parent in and also a child. Personally I would not allow my child to watch Frida if he were 14. Then of course I am putting him in a spot because he is removed from the class, and misses out on discussion etc. Do the kids tease him because his mum said no? I don’t think the school should be showing R rated movies – period.

    • I agree, Kate. And the kids have to live with the consequences of the decision, whatever it is. My boys had a great teacher, who did show some movies to supplement some lessons, but she made it an optional after-school activity. They weren’t rated R, and the kids still needed permission slips (PG-13, I think), but I thought that was a good solution.

  3. mj monaghan says:

    My kids are grown now, but I don’t think schools should show R-rated films at all. In spite of what great things they may teach.

    That being said, I would allow my kids to see them mainly because I wouldn’t want them singled out. That’s probably worse. But … I would have a long discussion ahead of time with the child and explain that this isn’t something I necessarily agree with, and that there will be things seen that do not represent the values we espouse. Just as there are other teaching moments throughout their childhoods.

  4. Hi Jeannette,
    It seems like a very poor choice on the teacher’s part. Frida was inappropriate for an audience of that age. Kids are damaged by being singled out, too. It is not fair for the teacher to put the parent in such a difficult position.

  5. Hmm, realize I left this post up on my computer for weeks, trying to figure out what to say and how to say it…and then didn’t say anything at all.
    I am so against R rated movies in class. Especially because the R rated movies of today are the X rated of a few years back. Which proves the point that I tried to make with my children…the more you are exposed to something, the more normal it becomes.
    I do have to say, that I am MUCH more opposed to R rated for violence, tho. And this seems to not raise as many hackles. What’s up with that?

  6. I think R rated movies shouldn’t be shown in school. There are tons of foreign language films that are PG or PG-13. Those are appropriate for schools. And I don’t like how this divides kids and sets up possible teasing. Not cool. The teacher should have a film that’s appropriate for all the students to watch.

  7. These are all really great, considered comments. So what did your friend decide? Love to know the outcome.

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