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Broadening horizons is a good thing

posted Nov 12, 2015, 10:11 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Nov 13, 2015, 9:50 AM ]

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one”- Malcolm Forbes

A real struggle of teaching is getting information to students in a way that they will truly learn from and remember it. This is most easily done by letting students learn from their own perspective with an open mind. Recently, a middle school teacher here in Conway Springs took it in his own hands to show his students a different perspective. Tom Leahy showed a video to his students, causing immediate controversy.

I believe that the message given from the video was one that is necessary for all developing minds to consider. It wasn’t factual information for the students to cram into their mind for a week to test and later disregarded and forgotten. It was a genuine, valuable life lesson, one that will be remembered by his students for a long period of time and that they can actually apply to their lifetime.

            It started when Mr.Leahy gave his eighth grade  students an assignment in which they were to create a fictional nation of their own - giving guidelines to its citizens to make it a better, functional place. Mr. Leahy became concerned when these guidelines for betterment were turned into rules and laws that were hateful and discriminating from his students. Specifically concerning for him was the rule that several students were using which forbid the citizenship of homosexuals in their nations.

            After noticing the common discrimination, Mr. Leahy decided to show his students a fictional video in the setting of a parallel society, where it was normal for everyone to be homosexual. In the video “Love Is All You Need,” a young girl in the reversed society comes to the realization that she is different - she is heterosexual. When it becomes evident to her peers that the girl is different, they make it a point to bully her, eventually tackling her to the floor and beating her while calling her names.

            Later, her parents find out what has happened. After questioning their daughter, she is sent to clean the derogatory word she had forcefully written across her forehead. The young girl overhears her parents arguing over the subject in addition to receiving several hateful messages from her peers. In response to the overwhelming hate she has received, the girl commits suicide in a graphic scene in the video.

            The graphic nature of the suicide was the main concern with the content. Mr. Leahy made it clear that while he didn’t regret showing the video, he wished he would have gotten permission to show it beforehand.

            I thought the discussion from the community following this situation was beneficial for all involved. Even though it caused some disruption, it brought light to an important issue that was much needed. The schools themselves have been trying to make the same point through less intense videos and anti-bullying assemblies, but these assemblies often end with no serious effect. So, if it takes a more serious tone in a video for future leaders of our society to understand that discrimination causes serious irreversible emotional damage, then so be it.

            While I understand the angle of concern from the parents and others concerned by the video, I genuinely believe that Mr. Leahy had purely good intentions in showing the video: to benefit his students so they can broaden their horizons and accept ideas they will be expected to acknowledge and be exposed to throughout their whole lifetimes.