I have a question for you – where do you draw the line in your language class as far as ethics?
Here’s my bias: I teach at a private faith-based (Christian) school, and I have to be very careful about what I show to my students and expose them to. More than that, I have personal convictions (actually much higher those of most of my students) that prevent me from showing many things I could show them without really getting in trouble with my school. I won’t show commercials or news clips that show women in very revealing clothing. I won’t show videos with suggestive dancing or themes, even in our favorite songs like Espacio sideral and No te pido flores and Sigo con ella (a song I love to use in class because of its actual positive depiction of faithful love- hard to find in almost any genre).
Aside from my personal convictions, and my school’s guidelines, my perspective on the field in general is that we are not their parents. Parents have a special responsibility to filter our child’s world, which is why we set rules, disallow certain clothing, prevent them from buying certain music or video games, and don’t expose them to too much too soon. I don’t know what the filter is that my students’ parents have set for them, but I do know that it is not my place to violate that filter.
Here are some items I’ve come across in my teaching experience with music and film that I would choose not to allow in my classroom.
Now, I’m not against rated R movies just because they are rated R. I show my senior class Pan’s Labyrinth every year as part of a series of activities to expose them to the truth about the Spanish Civil War and contrasting fantasy and reality. But when I was in the AP Spanish workshop a few years ago, the leader showed us a film that she used in her classes, even lower-level classes. The film was De eso no se habla, and the plot basically goes like this, if I remember correctly – an older, well-traveled man settles in an Argentinian village where he falls in love with a talented, 15-year-old midget. He fights his attraction for her in several ways, including traveling and regular visits to the local brothel, where he also runs into the [married] town mayor. He is able to marry her, but then she is for some reason unhappy, and in the end he watches as she runs away on the circus train to be with people who are like her. Sounds great, eh? I mentioned in the workshop that if I showed the movie I’d be fired. Another teacher said she taught at a public school but because of her personal convictions she’d never show it. I thought to myself, exactly what principles and life lessons are in this movie that I want to expose to my students? Because everyone knows that we aren’t just there to teach them language, and that’s certainly not all they learn from us.
I think of Ricardo Arjona as the Shakira of Guatemala. His music is very well done and mostly trashy. I actually used to use at least part of two of his songs, Quién (excellent for listening comprehension of numbers) and Pingüinos en la cama (which has the rare feature of using almost every option for continuous present in the space of about three sentences). I thought, hey, I’ll just play certain parts and leave out the rest, or the language is too advanced and they won’t get it, or surely they won’t look up the video. Yeah, right. The first year I tried this, I had a student, we’ll call him Enrique, who decided he loved Arjona, looked up the songs and their videos and their lyrics, and you can imagine how that went. I put the songs away and never used them again.
So there’s me; I just can’t in good conscience let myself take the place of my students’ parents in the name of ‘exposing them to other cultures’ and ‘well, they’re getting worse at home anyway.’ What about you? What’s your ethical standard?
Photo credit: Simon Q