I'm not sure what news you have heard about the body dismemberment murder case here in Montreal. This news story emerged yesterday:
In short, a grade 10 teacher at a local high school showed his class a video of an actual murder and its aftermath. He's currently suspended and awaiting disciplinary action. I just heard on the radio that some students are wearing white today to protest the teacher's treatment and arguing that he should not be punished. What the what now?
What I find most troubling about this story:
1. He had the poor judgement to show the video to minors in a classroom setting. The argument has been made that teenagers could access it online at home anyway, but in my view, they can also access hardcore porn and all sorts of other things, but that doesn't mean they should be exposed to it in school. Surely they could have had a debate about freedom of expression and the legality of such gore websites without witnessing the horrible murder themselves.
2. Students apparently voted unanimously 100% in favour of watching the video. I don't know what factors contributed (i.e. peer pressure), but I find it troubling that not one student objected.
3. As the article says, one student who was interviewed "said the video was troubling, but didn't have a lasting effect on him." Are we at such a point that kids are so desensitized to violence that this sort of reaction is expected? I can't even imagine watching such a video or having the desire to; the thought of my daughters watching it in a classroom at any point in their education is completely disconcerting to me.
I listened to a child psychologist on the radio talking about the case yesterday, and they have sent trauma experts to the school. I hope that the society I live in isn't so permissive that they'll let this guy teach ever again. To me he made an unforgivable error in judgement. The weird complexity of my city is that people are siding with him on some weird freedom of expression grounds mostly because of the atmosphere here surrounding student protests and the extreme police-state lockdown. It's not a good summer to be here. I'll take that media-free beachfront vacation now, please.
I'm not really asking a question here so much as wanting to hear from other parents, because nobody that I've heard talk about this story has responded to the astoundingly cool response of students to watching a video of a murder.
Most teachers will notify parents when any topic that might concern parents will be covered in class - I expect to know if a teacher wants to show an R rated movie in class to my 15 year old. I wouldn't say no, but I would be angry if I found out afterward. Its important just for the learning process - families need to know so they can follow up as their child processes challenging material.
Free speech applies to adults expressing themselves. He might not have done anything illegal, but he certainly could have violated school policies, and definitely violated the trust placed in him by the families of his community.
I likely wouldn't say no to an R rated movie at that age, but a snuff video of an actual murder conducted with an ice pick and depicting necrophilic and cannibalistic acts is an entirely other thing. And while all this has been going on the victim's parents are in town to collect his remains. The police are still looking for his head.
You make a good point about notifying parents in advance. He definitely should have done that.
The news updates are now saying police are considering pressing charges. He most certainly broke school policy and I hope the punishment is severe. The bigger issue that worries me here is the students' blase attitudes to it.
The students' attitudes don't surprise me. One, they're probably not being entirely truthful because they voted to see it and now don't want to look like babies on TV. Two, they voted to see it and don't want their teacher to get in trouble for what they believe was their choice. Never mind that they should have never, ever been given that choice,
Also, I doubt very much that they can process what they've seen enough to be properly horrified just yet.
When I was 9 or so, my grandmother gave me a book she'd bought at one of the death camps in Europe in the 1950s. The photos were incredibly graphic - bodies stacked 30 feet high, dead, emaciated babies, etc. She thought this would be a great way to teach me about WWII. I read the whole book and looked, unflinchingly, at all the photos. They were kind of gross and awful, but they didn't adequately disturb me until I was a young adult. I know I saw the book another time or two growing up, the last time probably early in high school.
I imagine the kids just don't know how to react. What they saw was horrific, but also far out of the scope of what people typically see. They'll deal with it in their own ways, but I don't think they should be expected to display any particular appropriate response in public.
I rarely say this - the teacher needs to lose his job. If he has such spectacularly poor judgment, he shouldn't be teaching kids.
I'm very surprised they all wanted to watch it, and I doubt they're as unaffected as they claim - it seems like part of the developmental stage of teenagers to affect disconnectedness, under the mistaken perception that it's more adult to be able to "take" really horrible stuff.
I'm not sure I buy the freedom of expression argument, at least under our constitution. People don't really have free speech rights at work here, so when he's teaching he's acting as the proxy of the school, and doesn't really have the individual right to expression.
I'm curious about the purpose of showing the video. When I was in 8th grade we watched a video of the liberation of Auschwitz, but the teacher got permission prior from parents. Looking back, I'm glad my parents let me see it, because it contextualized what we were learning in a really important way - taking atrocities from abstractions that can "never happen again" down to individual people and families. But I guess my bigger question is: there's all this b.s. floating around about how parents expect schools to babysit their kids, or teach lessons parents can't/won't, and how uninvolved most parents are in their child's education. But if we think it's okay for teachers to just up and do something like this, why bother being involved in your child's education? I could see parents seeing something like this and saying "well, they don't care what we think anyway."
Kommish - I doubt also that every student really wanted to see it. I'm sure there was some intense curiosity and some pressure to vote to see it and to not look squeamish, and in the end, all the kids voted for the video.
I can't figure out what the purpose of showing it is, either. I'm all Bwuh? about that. What's the lesson here? Just to satisfy curiosity about something in the media at the moment?
I would totally buy the idea that some/many of the kids viewing it weren't particularly affected. It's probably still in fantasy realm for them, I know I watched scads of horror movies and violent explicit garbage at that age unfazed, but by the time I hit my early 20's I was getting squicked out by it... now I'm pretty close to "nothing more disturbing than the Lion King".
I don't think what he did was appropriate. I do think he should have let parents know that it was going to be shown, at the very least. But I don't know what the law says about what has to still be parental notified at that age of schooling, so I have no idea if what he did was illegal or not.
I think it's important to be able to have a discussion about things like this... at any age. Someone not that much older than them committed some pretty horrifying crimes and IIRC used social media to broadcast no small part of that.
We absolutely need to be discussing this with our teenagers.... and discussing it face to face, not just this 160 character bullshit. Kids need practice expressing hard things and hearing hard things and thinking about hard things, ideally in a safe environment. They need practice to process the emotions and learn to think critically about a lot of really hard things.
But I guess I also think that my kids teachers and I should be more of a team, and that I should know if they're going to be dealing with super crazy stuff so that I can do my own reading and be prepared to have hard conversations.
Does that make sense? More and more, I'm sort of siding with what I think the teacher was likely trying to do here. Which may or may not be reflective of what actually happened or what was intended.
Wookie, what you say does make sense. I totally approve of discussing these issues in class: I would totally do so, and raise tough issues in my classroom all the time. But to show the video is just such an egregious lapse in judgement. I am glad he got fired.
To me one aspect of the students' collective reaction comes down to an experience of the personal vs. impersonal. Their sympathy for the teacher and desire to see him return is, I assume, an expression of their personal relationship to him. They expressed their love for him and didn't want to see anything bad happen to him (also because probably some of them felt guilty, as if their vote to see the video contributed to his fate). On the other hand, they didn't know the murder victim, so viewing his fate likely seemed like a disconnected, impersonal act. And might yet feel like that, but I don't think that's the whole story of what's going on deeper inside them.
I think the claim (at least by one student) that viewing the video "didn't have a lasting effect" on him is very premature. Two weeks is not "lasting," and the psyche takes time to shift in response to trauma. Shock overlaid with teenage nonchalance can look an awful lot like desensitization. I'm guessing in a few weeks or months or, for some, even years, a lot of these kids will start reliving the images they saw, either in dreams or in waking life, and need help processing them. Not to mention having the double-burden of feeling like they got their teacher fired because they asked to see the video.
As far as his dismissal goes, yes, I think it was the right thing for the district to do. Part of me feels for the man -- hopefully he now gets why it was such poor judgment to do what he did, too bad he didn't get it before, too bad he spent so much time and money preparing for a career in teaching that he's now not going to have -- but I don't think post-incident lightbulbs-over-the-head can make up for something this big. As district officials said, they had to show an unequivocal response. Anything less would have shaken any faith parents have in the school.