Letters to the Editor

Backward steps driving teachers away

As a “progressive” teacher in the Federal Way School District, and a person dedicated to supporting the opinions and interests of my students, I am appalled at the recent decision by the Federal Way School Board to ban R-rated films from the high school curriculum and limit the use of all other films in teaching our classes. This decision will damage the education of our children. It is a regressive, overly broad policy that borders on censorship and goes against the constitution of our country.

This policy will hurt our district in many ways. We are already dangerously close to losing the majority of our students’ interest in school, and this policy will only make it worse. It will add to reasons many teachers have to leave the district and teach elsewhere. My students and I urge the School Board to reconsider.

I am a child of the media generation, and as such I know the importance of media in our lives today. TV, movies and the computer are the most popular modes of communication in modern life. As much as we would like for our students to love books and literature, the fact of the matter is that they have all been raised from birth not on books, but on the media mentioned above. They respond more to movies than books, more to computer games than poetry. We need to teach students not only how to read and write, but also how to access information in other forms and use those forms to formulate ideas and opinions.

The idea that a film cannot teach a student anything is absurd. By using a film in the classroom, we can capture a student’s attention. We can explore ideas beyond the text. We can enhance the curriculum and make the classroom a more enjoyable place for the students, especially those who have a hard time in a regular classroom. More and more, we are failing the portion of our population that do not succeed in a traditional classroom.This group of students is growing, and we need to do more to make school accessible and enjoyable for them, not less. Also, this segment of our student population tend to have parents that are not involved in their education, and therefore these students’ opinions and perspectives do not get heard by the board.

I have been working in the Federal Way school district for two and a half years, and each year this district seems to creep further and further back in time toward the 1950s in terms of its ideology and its lack of promotion of multi-faceted teaching techniques. As much as we would like to have our schools be as they were in the past, they never will be. We live in a much different world today, a multi-media world, and we need to prepare our students to interact with the world they live in, not theworld we want them to live in.

Furthermore, each edict that comes down from the School Board seems to undercut the professional expertise of educators in the district. The choices that teachers can make regarding our curriculum become more limited with each passing day. The freedom to teach the way that works best for each individual teacher or student is being destroyed. Each time the board decides something like this, I personally get closer and closer to leaving the district to teach elsewhere. I know I am a good teacher. I am not saying that based on ego. I know my students like my classes, and it is because I try with all my might to make my classes accessible and enjoyable for them. I try to see through their eyes and give them an experience that will be memorable and exciting, as well as teach them all that they need to know to be successful in life. My options are becoming more and more limited with each resolution passed by the board. This lack of respect for teachers’ professional responsibility and knowledge of what is or is not acceptable is disturbing. I want to be able to teach my class in the best way possible, using the most progressive techniques possible. And I want to be supported by my district in the choices that I make as a professional educator, not undermined. The position of this board is making this difficult, if not impossible. Our district is in danger of losing many of its best teachers because of this type of resolution.

The majority of staff is not supportive of the decision. The majority of students that I have talked to are not supportive of the decision. I would even venture to say that a large number of parents would not be supportive of the decision. Please consider my words and opinions, those of my colleagues, my students and their parents, and re-evaluate the ban on R-rated films

Paul Bihary

Federal Way High School

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