- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

Films in the classroom

I am responding to the letter "Are Fairfax Co. schools R-rated?" by Jean Geiger of Reston, printed in Sunday's Forum column. As a current student in that school system, I must respond to several of the author's claims.
My main concern is that readers will take for granted a sort of pre-existing scenario in the schools in which movies rated R and PG-13 are shown regularly, just for entertainment purposes. This is false. Many films shown in classes that I have taken have had those ratings but maintain a high level of educational value. For instance, in my Latin class, we viewed selected scenes from the R-rated "Gladiator" to study Roman military structure and gladiatorial combat. In my Advanced Placement U.S. history class, we spent two class periods watching "The Last of the Mohicans," also R-rated, to familiarize ourselves with the effect of the French and Indian War on various groups of people. Further, both viewings were accompanied by assignments that asked us to analyze their historical inconsistencies and to establish the perspective of the filmmakers toward the opposing sides. These films were not watched as mere entertainment but were used as educational tools.
Another claim Mrs. Geiger makes is that "nothing in the new regulation prohibits showing immoral, sexual or extremely violent material in the classroom." (She is referring to Regulation 3007, governing the use of non-print materials in schools.) Though her statement is true, it can be misinterpreted to mean that many, if not all, teachers will be permitted to show movies in class purely for entertainment purposes to children who are not mature enough to handle the films' themes. In fact, the vast majority of teachers simply lack the class time to provide such entertainment. All videos that are shown are shown with a definite educational purpose in mind. Further, teachers rarely show full-length films in class. Because of the time constraints placed on them by the Standards of Learning curriculum, most viewings are limited to scenes selected for their educational value and rarely include graphic violence or sex.
The author is a parent of a Fairfax County public school student, and because of that, her concern is not without purpose. Indeed, if I were a parent, I would want to ensure that my children were receiving an education free from the amoral constraints of secularized Hollywood. At the same time, however, I would urge Mrs. Geiger and any other concerned parents first to consider the manner in which teachers are using films. The fact that a given teacher shows R-rated films doesn't necessarily mean the teacher shows the R-rated scenes from those films. This revised regulation simply gives permission for teachers to use films possessing high-quality educational content to be viewed in the classroom.

11th grade
Lake Braddock Secondary School

Iraqi war opponents were silent about Kosovo

The article "Critics of Kosovo, Iraq swap war-making reservations" (Nation, Saturday) discusses the different positions held by those people and nations who are against war with Iraq today but supported at least by refusing to protest it President Clinton's bombing of Yugoslavia. This contradiction is not rooted in apparent principles.
It is important to note that the Serbs did not have weapons of mass destruction. They did not attack us first they never even posed a threat to the United States nor did President Clinton ever receive U.N. sanctions to bomb the Serbian people in a cruel war.
Today, France and Germany demand proof that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, yet they had no qualms about an undeclared and unjustified war against the Serbian people by our wag-the-dog president. On the home front, during the bombing of Serbs, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, applauded the fact that "19 NATO members supported the military strikes in Kosovo." I remind Mr. Dodd that those 19 NATO member states comprise a population of 900 million that attacked a tiny nation of 10 million for defying Mr. Clinton's new world order. That is nothing to applaud.
Tearfully, actors and actresses of Susan Sarandon's ilk cry, "What have the Iraqi people ever done to us?" Yet I never heard her say, "What have the Serbian people ever done to us?" To the contrary, the Susan Sarandons of Hollywood did not vocally criticize their beloved president.
It should be noticed that when pundits discuss wars, they bring up World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf war, the Afghan war and now the impending Gulf war II. What's missing? The fact that none of these pundits talks about the war against Yugoslavia, i.e., the Serbs, as though the destruction of that sovereign nation and its people is irrelevant in the annals of modern history. Or perhaps it is something they conveniently prefer to forget?

Sterling, Va.

Columnist should stick to sports

Sadly, Tom Knott's rambling column on St. Bonaventure University's recent NCAA violations somehow had to include some acid remarks on the school's religious affiliation ("Bonnies' welder does his part in meltdown," Sports, Monday).
"Maybe it is a Catholic thing," Mr. Knott opines. "You know how it is with Catholics. They are apt to make anyone a saint, so long as he is not one of the priests who gets hot under the collar around altar boys."
If Mr. Knott had spent less time poking fun at Catholics and drawing parallels between Catholics and Michael Jackson, and more time researching his story, he might have found NCAA violations in college basketball are not a Catholic thing but a college basketball thing. Or maybe the University of Georgia just converted en masse without my knowledge.


My copy of The Washington Times arrives every morning here at my home at 4:10. Amazing, given that I live way out here in rural western Maryland.
The Times and its philosophy are, as Fox says about its news coverage, "fair and balanced." And it's a little on the conservative side. Wonderful.
I read Tom Knott regularly. I like him. But his column, "Bonnies' welder does his part in meltdown," is disgusting. Making deliberate fun of the Catholic faith is irrelevant to the column's theme. This shows Tom Knott to be an anti-Catholic bigot.
I am a disappointed reader.


In Tom Knott's column about the plight of St. Bonaventure University's basketball team, he gratuitously mentions "priests who get hot under the collar around altar boys" and the church paying "hush money" and making "anyone a saint." I think Mr. Knott would do all of his readers a great service if he would just stick to writing about sports.

Policy analyst
Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
New York

Can Israel teach democracy?<

I read with interest James Morrison's column on Arab democracy and the crisis in the Middle East ("Embassy Row," World, Friday). I was particularly bemused by the Slovak ambassador's comment on how Israel can play an important role by sharing experiences with neighboring nations in need of democracy.
Yet, what experience would Israel like to share with its neighbors? How it treats its citizens of Arab origins or how the Palestinians are enjoying life in the occupied territories? It is not a hidden fact that the current government of Israel has coalition partners that openly advocate the "transfer" of Palestinians to Jordan.
At the Beirut Arab Summit last March, all Arab leaders agreed with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah's unprecedented initiative to offer Israel comprehensive peace and complete normalization of relations in exchange for the occupied territories and ensuring the freedom and dignity of the Palestinians. There is no need to comment on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's response to this historic proposal. Even the "Quartet" road-map initiative for Middle East peace jointly proposed by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations in November was categorically refused by the Likud government, which claimed that Prince Abdullah's peace initiative was better than the proposed road map.
I really can't imagine what sort of truly democratic experience Israel has to share with its Arab neighbors, as the ambassador proposed. The Arabs are serious in extending a peace initiative toward Israel. Can Israel share this experience with us?

Chief of public diplomacy
Embassy of Syria

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