As a parent, how would you react if you learned your 11-year-old child had been shown an R-rated movie during one of his middle school classes? Would you be angry that the school hadn't asked for permission before exposing the children to a movie with adult content, including violence, gore, and plenty of profanity? Okay, now imagine that movie was Saw. NOW how do you feel?
Unbelievably, this actually happened on Monday. A middle school math teacher was briefly suspended for screening Saw to a class of sixth graders at a school in Colombes, France. According to reports, he told the kids that this would be their first horror movie, and -- shocker! -- at least one kid came home in "visible discomfort" after seeing the film.
When a parent called the school to complain, the teacher was called to a disciplinary meeting on Tuesday morning, then given a one-day suspension from teaching. It's not clear what will happen next, but the school has launched a formal inquiry along with the Federation of Students’ Parents Councils.
So, obviously Saw was an INSANE movie choice for a bunch of sixth-graders. Admittedly, I may have some personal bias against the film, because I'm a big horror movie fan and this particular franchise drives me up a wall for being 1) lame and formulaic, 2) responsible for the now-seemingly-ubiquitous term "torture porn," and 3) so inexplicably successful it spawned like 47 sequels. The bottom line, though, is that regardless of its cinematic merit or lack thereof, Saw is completely inappropriate for children.
I mean, come on. What was this teacher thinking? If the various burnings, shootings, stabbings, beatings, and mutilations didn't tip him off that the R-rating wasn't messing around, maybe the 28 instances of "fuck" in the dialogue should have?
I'm not sure anyone could argue that this particular film was acceptable for a school viewing, but it raises some interesting questions about what is and isn't okay for kids to see. There are plenty of other parental-guidance-suggested movies that I wouldn't have minded my 11-year-old seeing. The documentary Bully, for instance, which is PG-13. Or the R-rated Bowling for Columbine.
Some parents may have a media-free household, though, and disapprove of any movie being shown in the classroom. Others will inevitably disagree on which film choices and ratings are okay for their child. So should schools ban all movies from being shown during school hours?
Personally, I wouldn't want my kids' school to go that far. I'm not sure it's reasonable for media-free parents to expect that their kids will go through school without being exposed to any film content whatsoever -- remember those grainy educational tapes we were always watching as kids? -- but for movies that suggest parental guidance, it seems like a permission slip sent out ahead of time would be the best way to go. That way parents can decide on a case by case basis if they want to opt out.
Like for instance if the school was planning on showing Saw, for crying out loud.
What do you think of schools showing R-rated movies to young kids? Do you think there's ever a case where that's okay?