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Schools are using plays with very offensive and explicit language.

(125 Posts)
Sherrie2 Fri 07-Feb-14 13:59:59

Parents may not be aware that whereas TV and films seek to protect children from inappropriate material using the watershed and film classifications, plays are not subject to any censorship and schools are using material for GCSE which would be viewed as for adults only. This is an issue for drama and English Literature. My daughter's play 'Mogadishu' contained about 400 expletives, including over 200 uses of the 'f' word and over 10 uses of the 'c' word, as well as sexually explicit language. She was 14 at the time and was made to feel very uncomfortable as she had to read the script out for drama. This particular play is being used all over the country in schools and pupils are being taken to see it, even though it is described as a 'gritty' adult drama and as 'ripely filthy'.

There are currently no limits on the use of this type of material. I have set up a government e-petition to ask for some regulations to be put in place in the use of school texts in order to bring some consistency with TV and Film ratings and to ensure that schools are more accountable for what they do.

Please sign it, as once it reaches 100,000 the government will debate it in the House of Commons. Thank you.

Here is the link to the petition. Hope you feel able to sign it.

ferrar Tue 18-Mar-14 22:06:06

Sherrie2. You may want to post or repost in chat after this thread has run its course?
You may get more signatures, and unfortunately more abuse.

Feenie Tue 18-Mar-14 22:21:28

Are you kidding? It has headlined in the Mail on Sunday, The Times and received prime news time on Radio 5. Added to that, it has also been covered by Loose Women and Matthew Wright.

And after all that, 10 people had signed.

You think Chat is going to change that how?

Feenie Tue 18-Mar-14 22:23:02

Besides, petitions aren't allowed on Chat - suppose it might squeeze in one signature before it was deleted?

Dinosaursareextinct Tue 18-Mar-14 22:32:47

There was a fuss in South Africa because a public exam (GCSE type I think) required children to read an extract from a play describing the rape of a baby, and to discuss how they would act out the scene (using what props to portray the rape). How would people here feel about that?

adoptmama Wed 19-Mar-14 05:20:18

dinosaur it's interesting you raise this particular issue regarding Lara Foot's play Tshepang. Interesting, because rather like this case, there was a lot of mis-reporting and sensationalising.

Tshepang has been performed in South African schools for a long time, and performed around the world to great reviews. In Ireland for example one newspaper review said 'it does exactly what one hopes theatre will do'. It is a play based on real events in SA - the 2001 incident of the rape of a baby known in the media as 'baby Tshepang'.

Students in the exam were not required to read a scene describing the rape of a baby, that is one of the ways it was misreported. Students were required to read a 14 line extract in which the incident of the rape is dealt with and the line reads 'Simon acts out the rape with a broomstick and a loaf of bread'. Still harrowing stuff but not what was reported around the world.

What caused the outcry in South Africa was not the fact that the play was on a Matrix examination but the fact it was a unseeen, compulsory question. In other words students had no opportunity to avoid the question if they wanted. The author of the play even described the question as 'insensitive'. There has not actually been any outcry over the fact students study the play at all - but the fact the 'rape question' was a compulsory element of the exam.

So the outcry over the exam question is not the same as the issue regarding Mogadishu that has led to the parent's objection - which is only about the use of bad language. She had the option of her child withdrawing from the class and studying a different task. Not giving the option to avoid the question, but insisting students write on it, was wrong as it is a safeguarding issue at that point (by UK requirements) because, for example, you would be causing a triggering event for children whose lives had been touched by rape or child abuse. Therefore such a question could not appear in an exam here in the way it did in SA and the two 'incidents' are not, therefore comparable.

Very interestingly one of the most rational comments on the case - by Brook Spector the former CEO of J'burgs Market Theatre - is that studying the play (as has been done for years in SA high schools) and watching the play being performed is not an issue (and hasn't really ever been considered one by SA schools). As Spector says “It is an extraordinary play, a work that always had a major impact on student groups when they came to see it at the Market,” Spector said. “But, and here’s the but, it was part of a process of discussion with the students when they came to see it." This is exactly what has been said here by many a drama teacher - using material in a safe, educational setting is a process which enables disturbing events to be safely examined. The SA department of education said 'grade 12 students are young adults and fully aware of the social issues confronting our country. The dramatic arts are powerful vehicles for creating social awareness and education to societal issues that need to be addressed to bring about societal change.'

FWIW the two questions in the Matrix on the exam, which were designed to assess understanding of action metaphor, which were felt to be inappropriate were “Why did the playwright choose to use the symbols of a loaf of bread to represent the baby and the broomstick as the ‘rapist’?” (the rape is not acted out with body parts in the play but with the props just mentioned) and, more problematically, “Describe how you would get the actor portraying Simon to perform line 9 to maximise the horror of the rape for the audience”.

In full, the questions, which accompanied the 14 line extract, were "Explain to what extent the character Simon can be called a narrator (2 marks)"; "As the only speaking role in the play Simon's speaking performance is crucial to the success of the play. Describe how you would use tone, pace and volume in lines 1-8 to build to the point of climax in this exatract. (5 marks)". The last 2 sections of the question, detailed above, were worth 3 and 4 marks respectively. Line 9 reads 'He acts out the rape using a broomstick and a loaf of bread'.

Clearly students did not read a scene 'describing' the rape of a baby. Never-the-less that is the media story which was carried around the world and gets repeated over and over again.

To suggest that the two 'issues' - Mogadishu and Tshepang - are the same is a fallacious argument. Tshepang was one of the set works for the 2012-13 school year, a fact which did not cause complaint. It is the compulsory nature of a badly thought through question which was the issue.

Youarejustwordsonascreenpeople Wed 19-Mar-14 10:00:50

Adopt mama, you are officially my new hero. I think I love you :-). As the young 'uns say 'owned' :-D

adoptmama Wed 19-Mar-14 13:25:53

BTW, Grade 12 - or Matric - students in SA are 17 or 18 years old.

Hardly 'children' dinosaur

ferrar Wed 19-Mar-14 13:29:59

I dont know if you realise that swearing is against God? That it is a sin? I dont think that some people are aware of this?
Yes, I realise that that will not bother some people smile

treaclesoda Wed 19-Mar-14 13:34:29

Well, blasphemy is certainly against God, but general swearing? Not so much. It's just language, and language evolves.

Dinosaursareextinct Wed 19-Mar-14 13:45:08

Believe me, in this country (maybe not South Africa) a huge huge deal is made about under 18s being classified as children. Eg child protection is a big issue for a 17 and 11 month year old, and then falls away completely on their birthday.
Ferrar - maybe we should go with the assumption that swearing is not a sin, based on that being the view taken by the vast majority of people in this country? I doubt that even many Christians believe that using the F word is a sin? You should probably home educate, as do like thinking parents in the US.

donnie Wed 19-Mar-14 13:57:21

" Keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny"

This is one line from Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' which I have taught so many times I have lost count and which hundreds of schools do for their lit GCSE . It's a great book, in so many ways. I'd be interested in whether or not the OP thinks that ought to be banned as well. And incidentally, To Kill A Mockingbird has the term 'Nigger' in it dozens and dozens of times. That's because it's a book about, among other things, racism. Maybe the OP would prefer the term 'Persons of colour' to be 'strung up and lynched'. There are rapes in Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare, child murders in Lord of the Flies - are these more acceptable because they don't have the word 'fuck' in them ? (although to be fair LOtF does say 'bollocks')

Personally I find the racist language above more shocking than the words 'fuck', or 'cunt '(which Chaucer says all the time btw). the problem is, if we expunged all the racist language in the book, it would lose its meaning and power.

Where good, meaningful literature is concerned we censor at our collective peril. I have been teaching GCSE and A level lit for over 20 years now so I know what I am talking about.

ferrar Wed 19-Mar-14 13:58:44

Lots of verses about not using swear words here. I wouldn't normally link to bible verses, but even the first 4 examples on it are enough to see I think?

Dinosaursareextinct Wed 19-Mar-14 14:14:01

Yes, I find the emphasis some people put on swearwords quite bizarre. Also the emphasis on any degree of sexual conduct. I read MN views on the suitability for pre-teens of "Noughts and Crosses". Everyone talked about the one (consensual and not very graphic) sex scene. They didn't think it even worth mentioning the fact that the book contains 2 public execution scenes, including one in which the hero is hanged (on trumped up charges). I found the book traumatic enough as an adult, but apparently the sex scene was the issue for most people.

maillotjaune Wed 19-Mar-14 14:14:35

Ferrar have skimmed through your link.

1. Most of the references are to OT - AFAIK there are many Christians who read the OT bearing in mind where / when it was written I.e. not taking it literally.

2. There are 3 references to gospels.

2 from Matthew - the first is about swearing falsely i.e.lying, not swearing as in swear words. If i tell someone to fuck off and i mean it, I am not swearing a false oath am I? The second is not obviously about swearing either.

1 from John which reads to me as a general 'don't sin'.

So I don't see gospel references supporting the need to avoid swearing completely. I confess I am no theologian and good though my RE teacher was that's many years back.

Going on your link though, that's what I think.

adoptmama Wed 19-Mar-14 14:47:20

yes but this isn't a child protection issue is it.

Dinosaursareextinct Wed 19-Mar-14 14:59:50

Whatever - first, I assumed 16 year olds (as GCSE here) but obviously wrong, second, they are called children at that age, so your comment "hardly children" is technically incorrect.

ferrar Wed 19-Mar-14 15:24:25

I am impressed mailliotjaune! I often wonder how often anyone bothers to read anyones' links, never mind comment on them.

I will be back to comment later.

Weegiemum Wed 19-Mar-14 15:45:17


As a fellow teacher, I salute you!

ferrar Wed 19-Mar-14 15:51:38

Of the first 20, 17 are New Testament. Including the first 3 which are quite clear on the non use of swear words.
But I appreciate you thinking about the issue.

maillotjaune Wed 19-Mar-14 16:10:44

My mistake - I was looking specifically for gospel references as these are the ones that a Christian would hold to be reporting the acts / word of Christ.

Actually the second extract from Mathew is the sane as the last line as the first extract but I'd missed a second one from John.

Apologies for the slight thread derail as this is not the core of the issue but my reading of the link is that I still don't see any reference to the gospels referring to swear words specifically. It might not be 'nice' but...

ferrar Wed 19-Mar-14 17:35:59

As far as I know, christians take most notice of all the New Testament including the gospels, and bear in mind the Old Testament.
But as you say, we are in derailment terroritory to an exten,t so I will back away. Thanks maillotjaune for the conversation.

adoptmama Wed 19-Mar-14 18:20:03

The matric exam in SA is more the equivalent of A level/IB etc. It is a school leaving exam.

haveyougotanyleechesforthis Tue 25-Mar-14 09:43:20

Im sorry i havent read the whole thread but i just wanted to add that this is happening to younger children too

we got a permission slip asking if my 10 year old could go to the cinema to see Micheal Morprgu (sp?) firl , Private Peaceful. the children would get to meet the author and get a free book.

what they didnt tell us was that the film is 12A, and culminates with the hero they have identified being shot for cowardice, when he didnt follow orders and stayed with a wounded friend in no mans land.

he is shot by firing squad .... i think its 12 of them..... while his comrades look on. they then disobey orders by refusing to depart...implying they will all be shot too.

he is singing his favourite childhood song as he is shot.

now im not squeamish or middle class at all... i watched 12 years a slave and cried all the way through at the horror of what actually happened all those years ago.

But my dd is 10. she cried when marley died... and it continues to worry her. this is a film unsuitable for my dd.

BUT i'm horrified that the notification from the school did not mention that it was a 12a or gave any indication that, as a parent, i should be concerned with the content...merley asking my permission for her to leave school in school hours.

My dd wont be going and she isnt the only one. my problem is though, that she is now missing out on CURRICULAR activities. it shouldnt be in the curriculum at all! yes to incuding the war, yes into interalising what happened, yes to trying to prevent it happening again.

BUT dont traumatise my child with stuff that is classified too old for her, and NO to trying to minimise the information given to parents

adoptmama Sun 06-Apr-14 11:23:31

All a 12a means is that a child under 12 cannot see the film without an accompanying adult. Therefore the film is not 'classified as too old for her' and I sincerely doubt the school was 'trying to traumatise' your child. More likely they were giving them the opportunity to see a well regarded film, the ending of which they already will know if they have been reading the book in school, and meet and talk to the author. I'd jump at the chance for my child to attend an event like this.

If you are concerned the letter from the school did not give enough detail, why not simply contact the school and ask that, in future, they give a little more detail to parents about the film, classification, content and curriculum links? She is not missing out on a curricular activity because of something the school has done; she is missing out on an extra-curricular activity because you have chosen not to send her. The school informed you of the activity, you exercised your right for her not to participate (which is the same choice the OP of this thread was given, and she chose to allow her child to participate and then complained). The book is generally used with Year 5 up (so age 10) and is considered entirely appropriate. You are saying 'it shouldn't be in the curriculum at all!' which I find really quite odd. Why on earth shouldn't it be used in schools? It is a book aimed at children of this age, considered suitable for children of this age and viewed as a very good book for children of this age. It also has a far lower body count that Harry Potter. Have you read Carrie's War? Goodnight Mr. Tom? The Diary of Ann Frank? There are dozens of excellent books for young readers out there - with accompanying films - which do not 'traumatise' children because they are dealt with in school in a way which allows children to understand, talk about and deal with the issues raised.

Youarejustwordsonascreenpeople Sun 06-Apr-14 11:52:55

Hear! bloody hear! Adoptmama

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