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Teaching a topic you're not ethically comfortable with.

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by msmillreef, Feb 23, 2012.

  1. msmillreef

    msmillreef New commenter

    I've been asked to teach a topic related to human rights to Year 9's that I find uncomfortable even as an adult. I can teach difficult and emotive subjects and in my capacity as a geographer I've done it numerous times. The problem is that the course is being planned by a sociologist and the content shows real executions and murders and asks students to research about real murders which are really distrubing. I looked through some of the suggested clips and nearly gagged. I couldn't sleep after watching one of them and it kept going around my mind. I don't want kids learning about this and I don't want to teach it. I spoke to the teacher and have offered to create resources for the topic but it's fallen on deaf ears. They say that like it or not, the kids will go off and look at this stuff so better let them do it in class - I don't agree. Advice?
  2. wrldtrvlr123

    wrldtrvlr123 Occasional commenter

    No one has weighed in, so I'll have a go.
    Why is a sociologist planning a class that you will be teaching? Has the content been approved by your HoD or SMT?
    Aside from your ethical concerns, the reality is that if there are any complaints from students/parent, they will fall on you (as the one that presented the possibly objectionable material). As this is the case, you should be able to have input into the content and plan for the topic.
    As for the argument that the kids will go off and look at this stuff anyways, it strikes me as inaccurate and weak. All students will go off and look for death scenes and snuff films? Really?
    A good percentage of them will go off and get intoxicated, fornicate and/or get into fights. Should you bring all of that into the classroom as well?
    I would run it by the powers that be in your school (in a respectful and positive way, of course). If everyone else is just fine with it, you may want to express your concerns in an email and keep their response in case there is any collateral damage or splatter from the situation (so to speak). Good luck.
  3. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    Speak with the line manager immediately; if the 'sociologist' is your line amanger, go to the next level.
    This is not aceptable and your head should be glad it was picked up before the students saw it.
    I wouldn't allow that for IBDP kids. It is inappropriate and completely unnecessary.
    It also has nothing to do with sociology,the highlighting of this teacher's specisalism is irrelevant.
  4. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    Agree with wldtrvlr and the Maker that this is an absurd and wicked thing to say.
    Would only cavil at M-Maker's attempt to downplay the fact that the smug sicko running this course is a sociologist.
    But naturally. Sociologists flatter themselves that they can make value-free, non-judgemental assessments of human institutions and interactions. This means that 90% of the time they are tear-jerkingly boring, the rest of the time mad and dangerous.
    Msmillreef has run into one of the 10% and should report this lunacy as advised above.
    When I was at Uni, eons ago, there was a neat little graffito inscribed above the toilet-roll holder in the library WC. It read, 'Sociology degrees. Please take one'.
  5. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    This *** who has told you to show disturbing and horrifying images to your class is obviously a total twit. For you as a professional teacher, it would be immoral and potentially very harmful for your students if you were to show videos of real executions and other similar material. As a previous poster has already pointed out, the parents would blame YOU if their children were to have nightmares or worse. Year 9s like to pretend to be very adult and cool etc., but really most of them are not and so real-life scenes of violence and cruelty could have a very strong influence upon them.
    The argument that gory scenes of beheadings etc are "out there on the Internet anyway, so it does not make any difference" is a mega cop-out and it is an argument that is so intellectually flimsy and so fraudulent that I am appalled that any trained and experienced educator could come out with such utter garbage. The truth is that EVERYTHING is on the Internet, if you bother to look hard enough, but it is our job as teachers to give our students the best, not the worst.
    I was once in a school in which I was told to teach my Year 5 class about Ancient Greece, a National Curriculum topic for History. I refused to do it because the teaching material had lots of references to the Greek gods and the Muslim parents of the children in my class would have gone bananas. Also the Ancient Greeks were in the habit of stripping off and runnning around wearing nothing but a smile - another big "no no" for Muslims. Fortunately I managed to persuade The Powers That Be that another History topic might be less offensive.
    Having written all that, I DID once show a rather gory version of "Macbeth" to a Year 9 class. The Scottish play was our set text and the violence in the film was very much part of the story. I also made absolutely sure that I had informed the head and the deputy head of my intention to show the film, so that they could cop their fair of any flak, but I had no complaints from any of the parents. I felt at the time that I had made the right decision to show the film, but in your case I think that it would be the right thing NOT to show your class these shocking and disturbing images. Even if it were to cost you your job, I still say that you should not do it.
  6. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    In defence of the world of socios (oligists
    / paths, your choice
    ) it is difficult for mere mathematicians or
    linguists to understand the complexities of Foucault's Histories of Madness & knowledge, or
    the deconstructivist movement which gained notoriety in the 80's, or the
    plainly insane existentialists (although
    most existentialists in my humble opinion just go for the coolness factor
    rather than getting to grips with what Sartre et al were saying
    It is far
    easier for those with no understanding of the subject to mock. However, it is a
    jolly useful degree for all manner of reasons - it just doesn't help you to get
    a job at the end of it.[​IMG]
  7. msmillreef

    msmillreef New commenter

    I mean this in the nicest possible way but, this is exactly what annoys me about the sociologists in my school. They spout other peoples work to sound cool and oh so intelligent. We all have degrees - why do they need to lord it over those of us with proper degrees?
  8. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    The Polanski movie, hippo?
    It's had a long life, for my teachers screened it when we did the Scottish Play for O-Level (there's an archaeological giveaway) and my daughter sat through it last year.
    Or is it some other, even nastier version?
    Of course some of the ugly ***** that takes place in Macbeth, Lear, Othello, not to mention plays by those Greeks whom you had to hide from your Muslims, must give us pause for thought.
    And what about those Goya horrors that one blithely shows to youngsters? And my daughter and friends returned on Tuesday from an educational trip to Berlin that included an afternoon jaunt to Ravensbrück - they are nattering about it in the kitchen as I write....
    As my own headmaster said to us 100 years ago, "Frank Zappa is abhorrent to me, but equally so is Richard Strauss's Elektra."
    His favourite composer was Mozart, someone whom I eulogise to the students whenever they give me the chance, a nice cheerful chap who penned operas about sexual depravity.
    Perhaps we artsy types are being hypocritical, after all, when we deny that sociologist sweetie his share of the action.
    I hope I have everyone's permission to print out this thought-provoking thread, especially the hippo's excellent contribution, and offer it to Year 12 ToK next Tuesday.
    I had thought of trawling the web to find and show them the first **** movie I saw, in a sleaze-pit in Bristol in 1971 or '72. While I have no visual recollection of this masterpiece, alas, I do remember its title, 'Danish Dentist On The Job'.
    Probably Year 12 would find 70s smut risibly humdrum.
  9. yasimum

    yasimum New commenter

    I totally agree with the preceding posters. When I was thinking about your problem, my first reaction was that as a parent (usually a very silent one) I would be after blood if my daughter was exposed to graphic material such as you describe. Yes those things exist but I want my daughter to be as innocent and unburdened as she can be, for as long as possible. Then I thought that the majority of executive these days really couldn't give two hoots about what their teachers want or think (half the time they don't even care worksfor the best interesto. If you feel that this applies to your situation, perhaps you could drop the 'P' word. In my experience, as soon as someone intimates that the parents won't be happy, the turn around is amazing!
  10. 576

    576 Established commenter

    Is it possible to teach the lesson without these clips.
    If so go ahead and do so.
    Provided you've covered the objectives of the SoW and your class are not disadvantaged in the end of topic assessment then you should be free to teach the lessons in a manner and using resources which you feel are best suited to you and your students.

  11. msmillreef

    msmillreef New commenter

    I'm acutally doing this - I've just spent the last four hours making my
    own resources for this topic. As far as schemes of work goes, there are
    none. There is just a"Big Question". I told my colleague that I'd like
    to show her the alternative lesson and she's said fine. Let's see how
    it goes on Tuesday.
  12. I may be stating the obvious here but have you looked at what Amnesty International have in regard to didactic materials on human rights for teens?

  13. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    If you are in a school where the leadership or your colleagues or the parents or anyone else speaks this language, then just quietly clear your desk, say goodbye to your best friends, call an airport taxi and vanish.
  14. kemevez

    kemevez Occasional commenter

    The big ethical question here is what should you do if the powers that be insist on you teaching this lesson this way. You have at least three options,#1 The Dude's break for the border option, #2 refuse and take the consequences, #3 nod your head, close your classroom door and then just do it your way.

    I'll bet my life that the percentage of teachers in schools with facist management who have opted for #3 at least once in their career is closer to 100 than to 99. Sometimes you gotta roll with it
  15. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    Absolutely correct.
    I'm 'management', but only a part-time fascist.
    As ToK teacher I'm accountable to a frightening dominant female and when she issues orders that go against my tender conscience I smile and nod and go for kemevez's option #3 - like 99.7% of readers here.
  16. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Yes, SMTdude, it was indeed the Polanski version. I did leave out the bit where Lady MacB wanders around in her birthday suit. Discretion is sometimes the better part of valour.
  17. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    Francesca Annis.
    In Act V, Scene i, the sleepwalking episode, where for an all-too-brief moment (as far as the adolescent boy was concerned) Lady Mac is glimpsed naked as the voyeuristic doctor intones, "What a sigh is there!"
    Which we all heard as "What a size they are!"
    Some boys never grow up, and here am I to tell the tale.
  18. "Stop being a *****," works for me.
  19. ?
    Then why are you still... ooops sorry, I got hold of the wrong end of the stick again.
    My bad.
  20. asking

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