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August 2000, Week 3


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 18 Aug 2000 08:59:11 -0400
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thomas morsch intervenes very usefully on the issue of what one may
and may not say [or show/not show] while teaching . . .  his observations,
reprinted below, represent what i take to be a classical academic freedom
position, and as one who has run into some serious trouble from having
taught offensive materials, i tend to be in virtually complete agreement
with that position . . .

 . . .but what complicates the matter is that for almost all of us [even,
i would venture, for thomas morsch] there are going to be things that
it would be, at best, inappropriate to say in class . . . fairly simple
in point: while we may feel justified in using the word "stupid" in
referring to a religious position that absolutely refused to recognize
any validity at all in notions of evolution [ar archaeology or astronomy
for that matter], we probably would not particularly applaud a teacher
who called a student who believed this "stupid" . . . similarly we might
find a course in pornography legitimate but would probably hesitate
before inviting a pair of porn stars to have sex in our classrooms . . .

i think what i'm suggesting is that some notion of acceptable [or
reasonable or humane] public discourse operates as an implicit,
and usually un-noticed, norm for most of us . . . it's only when
discourse well within that norm is condemned that we raise the
flag of academic freedom . . . but, unfortunately, reasonable and
thoughtful people may well define that norm in different ways . . .

so it's not an good/bad, right.wrong, either/or binary . . . rather
it's a matter of two conflicting desiderata, civility  on the
one hand and intellectual integirty and rigor on the
other, that come into conflcit in any multi-cultural community . . .

the question of how to address [if not resolve] this problem remains
a very tricky one

mike frank

as a teacher at a german university, it is interesting for me to follow
this discussion and to learn about the differences concerning teaching.
Actually, I was surprised by the fact, that american teachers have to
take such issues into consideration while planning a course.
Concerning this issue I would take  a strong stand for academic freedom.
No one is forced to join my courses and all students ar grown-ups - so I
see no reason to restrict my choice of films to PG-rated movies.
Especially, this would make impossible to teach anything about
pornography, horror or similar genres. And it would also exclude films by
Carolee Schneeman, Kenneth Anger, Nagisa Oshima, etc.

Actually, a student who complains about including films into a course
that display graphic violence, nudity or that contain explicit language
(the majority of movies beloning to one category or the other) seems to
be the equivalent to a medical student who refuses to treat burnt
victims, because it is "too gross". This would be ridiculous.

This may sound a bit naive and it certainly shows that, up to now, I have
been largely unconcerned with this issue. But I would like to hear other
opinions advocating a greater sensibility concerning these issues.

Thomas Morsch
Film Dept.
Freie Universitaet Berlin

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