Letters to the Editor

Decision ruins good way to learn

I am extremely upset that the Federal Way School Board has voted to ban all R-rated and unrated films from district classrooms. This strikes directly at the Film As Literature class in the Federal Way High School catalogue.

From the Federal Way High School 2002-03 Course Guide, page 13: “Film As Literature ... This course includes units on the art, language and history, and theories of film. It involves comparisons and contrasts between composition and filmmaking, literature and narrative film, reader response and viewer response, and both literary and film critique.”

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the board meeting March 25 because of illness. Also, that night was parent-teacher conferences at Federal Way High School, and many parents likely were unable to attend. It appears from reading a comment quoted in the Mirror that many attending felt movies such as “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” have “absolutely no redeeming value. If history teaches us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t repeat it in the form of movies in classrooms.”

While I respect the right of the quoted individual to their opinion, I could not disagree more. History has repeatedly taught if we fail to educate our children about mistakes of previous generations, they will be repeated with even greater horror.

To those who feel cinema is not literature, I respectfully submit otherwise. I challenge them to find a major American university, college or community college where at least some films are not so considered. To be sure, not all films are great literature, but then many books sold are barely worth the paper on which they are printed. It is as important to learn the difference with film as it is with books, music, visual arts or theater, and it is our duty as parents and educators to provide that learning opportunity. We are not talking about “Porky’s” and “Scream 2.”

I understand from discussion with my high school daughter and by reading the course guide that the Film As Literature class is a senior-level class. and further, an elective, meaning no one is required to take the class, and those eligible will in most cases be at least 17 years of age. The opportunity is now denied my child to view and discuss in a classroom, with her peers and a trained educator, movies which she could legally go to a video store and rent or buy. Furthermore, my parental control over her classroom experience has been denied because this option is removed. Those who felt this was not worthwhile classroom material had the option to not take the class!

Even more disturbing is the blanket decision to ban viewing unrated material. I feel this is plain avoidance by the School Board of its responsibility to either decide for itself suitable curriculum material, or to delegate curriculum decisions to competent professionals. It is bad enough to rely on the movie rating board for these decisions but to simply ban all unrated material is unconscionable. Banning viewing of unrated movies is like banning books written before invention of the printing press!

To quote in part from the School Board resolution of Feb. 11:

“Whereas: The primary mission of publicly funded K-12 education is the teaching of academic knowledge and skills and providing for a well rounded education, and…

“ Whereas: Parents have the primary role in upbringing of their children

“Be It Therefore Resolved: that the Federal Way Board of Education believes that the continuation of our constitutional republic requires a well-educated citizenry. We support a well rounded liberal arts education ...”

I agree with the need for well-rounded liberal arts education and feel removing the option of reviewing difficult, challenging literary material in a high level classroom under the guidance of a well-trained professional is not in any way progress toward that goal.

I am disappointed my board officials elected to defer curriculum decisions to the movie rating board, and am further disappointed in the apparent lack of defense of a quality high school curriculum by the board’s professional advisor in the person of the school superintendent. Finally, I am disappointed that my daughter and upcoming son’s educational options have been censored and my parental options narrowed through the board’s caving to the wishes of a vocal minority.

Grant Knechtel

Des Moines

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