Friday, February 20, 2009

The Fairness Doctrine--School Edition

A New York Times report examines a few recent cancellations of Rent: School Edition by public schools across the country. These school administrators and parents feel that the frank discussions of homosexuality, H.I.V., and drug use are not age appropriate to be presented or viewed by high school students.
Reporter Patrick Healy reports:
The New York producers of “Rent,” who receive some royalties from the school edition, said they hoped it would become a new, revenue-generating staple of the high school musical landscape, as well as a teaching tool that augments sex education and draws teenagers to acting and theater with a more modern production than, say, “The Music Man.”

With all due respect to this wonderful Broadway play, Rent should not ever be viewed in order to augment sex education classes. The play certainly deals with, in dramatic fashion, the issue of sex and homosexuality, but that does not make it a valuable educational tool. In my opinion, it would be the same as Hugh Heffner creating Playboy: School Edition and hoping it would be used to educate high schoolers in their sex education classes.

Healy describes a recent Facebook video of Corona del Mar High School students using gay slurs and the theater teacher, Ron Martin's reasoning for choosing Rent: School Edition:
"This is the first time I’ve chosen a show for the high school because I had an agenda,” Mr. Martin said. “In this instance, having an agenda as a teacher didn’t give me pause. My job is to give my students life skills. Discrimination is wrong on all levels."

First, Mr. Martin is correct that discrimination is wrong. He is correct in his implication that homosexual students in high schools across this country face discrimination and pain. Yet, I can't help but wonder whether Mr. Martin and other theater directors have the same sympathy for the discrimination that evangelical Christians face on a daily basis. While I make every effort to correct students who call things they don't like "gay," can I honestly say that I correct students who use "Jesus" or "Christ" in an abusive manner. That is equally offensive. If Mel Gibson writes The Passion of the Christ: School Edition, will these same high minded directors have an agenda that includes that play?

In the end, I don't have an issue with such a play being offered at the high school level. I would have an issue with it if the drama teacher made the play mandatory for his students, or if a school made it mandatory for students to view.
Drama, like Rent or Dead Man Walking, has the ability to create dialogue. But when there is a specific agenda, an intent to indoctrinate, then these productions lose my support. The best dramatic presentions create dialouge, honest and accepting dialogue.
Recently, Ellington High School in Connecticut performed the adapted production of Dead Man Walking, and not only performed it brilliantly, but offered a forum for discussion on the controversial death penalty. When the level of discourse is raised by these productions, then they are truly successful.


At 7:02 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who ever said the intent was to "Indoctrinate"? Do you think the teachers incorporating this play are trying to make all of their students gay? Or is it that the teachers want all of their students to at least be able to empathize with the problems gay students may encounter? And what would be wrong with that? I love people who, everytime someone tries to enlighten the world about one issue start screaming, "but what about MY issue??" Please, don't diminish the efforts of some people to tackle an issue like the rampant homophobia in American high schools by complaining about the abuse Christians get. Both issues deserve attention but do we have to choose which one should get more air time?

Go ahead with your usual defensive attack...

At 9:44 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Mr. Kaparal, you are laughable at best. First, the word "indoctrinate" means to teach or to imbue (inspire) a certain belief. Further, the high school director says, that he openly had an agenda, and so, I can correctly use the word "indoctrinate."
Second, at the point in which you wrongly inferred that my post advocates that teachers are "trying to make all their students gay," you lost any credibility as a reader. Your follow up question is a more accurate description of my post. In fact, my words were, "Mr. Martin is correct that discrimination is wrong." Perhaps in your haste you missed that. I also added later, "In the end, I don't have an issue with such a play being offered..." Again, perhaps your haste caused you to miss such an important statement.
Thirdly, you must have also missed the title: "The Fairness Doctrine--School Edition." This title, if you don't follow the news, is an allusion to the recent surge to bring back the Fairness Doctrine for our air waves. You see, some people think that we must give every side of the issue equal amount of time in print and on talk radio. My suggestion is that if we are going to give time to social/sexual discrimination which happens to homosexual students, then we must also give equal time to religious discrimination which happens to Christians or Muslims for that matter.
I chose Christianity to make the point simply because of its controversial nature, especially in relation to public education settings.
For you to suggest that I've diminished one group's suffering by bringing up the suffering of another group demonstrates your own narrow-mindedness, which ultimately proves the greater point that some people really aren't all that interested in fairness. This is my blog, sir, and so if I want to make such comparisons, then I will.

And because you asked for it, I gave it. God bless and have a nice day.

At 8:29 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The best dramatic presentions create dialouge, honest and accepting dialogue."

I see no difference between this and what Ron Martin was trying to do. In your statement, you are presenting a reason for chosing a production that amounts to an agenda--one that certain people, who dislike honest, accepting dialogue, whould strenuously oppose. You have only given us a small part of Mr. Martin's thinking but it is enough for me to conclude that his agenda is yours exactly, i.e. to open an honest dialogue.


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