|Isabel with church friend, August 2013|
A few years ago, our daughter Isabel came home from her Chilean school with a story that sent her parents straight to the principal's office. At the time she was in 2nd or 3rd grade. In one of her classes the animated (read: age-appropriate) movie malfunctioned and a second film was substituted. It didn't take long for Isabel to realize it was not a movie her parents would want her to watch! She tried to tell the teacher, only to be ordered to sit down. (Knowing now the chaos that rules many classrooms here in Chile, I can understand the teacher's reaction but still do not condone it.)
So she came home and described the movie to us. She didn't know the name, only that it was about a "superhero" that drank a lot of alcohol and didn't act very nice. Immediately that rang a bell for a video review I had read on Plugged In, a resource by Focus on the Family that has been invaluable to us over the years. Plugged In provides movie reviews to help parents and families determine what is appropriate to watch, and in this case the movie Hancock had already been disqualified in our house. After reading the review I felt it wasn't edifying - even for our own adult viewing - and now my 7- or 8-year old was watching it in her school classroom!
My husband and I went to the principal's office and shared our concern. She had no idea the film was being shown, was apologetic and promised to speak to the teacher immediately and ensure this did not happen again. We pointed out that the movie's intended audience in the country of production was PG-13. (It was around this time that we began to understand that unfortunately, PG-13 in the States is changed to TE+7 in Chile, effectively shaving six years off the recommended viewing age.)
At the time, I did not blog about this incident for a number of reasons. One, I was initially too angry to be objective. Two, I expected a backlash of opposing opinions: the first, those who might shake their heads in somber disapproval that we placed our children in secular school at all; and the second, those who might roll their eyes and say we were overreacting. Three, at the time of resolution we felt that this had been a positive learning experience for our daughter, ourselves, and the school and it had given us an opportunity to be "salt and light" in our educational context.
[Side note: Recently, I read an excellent book entitled "Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public Schools." In it, authors David and Kelli Pritchard encourage Christian parents to consider the promise of 1 John 4:4 ("greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world") and to nurture our children through Scripture and parental involvement in such a way as to prepare them to withstand negative influences and be a light in dark places (even the public school system.) This book affirmed much of what Pedro and I have discussed when making schooling choices up to now. I recommend reading it even for families who may never choose secular schooling because of the balanced perspective it offers.]
I wish I could tie this post up in a neat little bow and said we all lived happily after. But that was not to be the last time we as parents cringed over a story that one of our children brought home. Just this week we were reminded again that we are in a battle for our children's minds and hearts.
To be continued ...