By Leslie C. Halpern
Winner of Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards, 12 Years a Slave is now coming to a high school near you. Well, maybe.
The National School Boards Association (NSBA), partnering with New Regency, Fox Seachlight, Penguin Books, and the filmmakers, will make copies of the film, book, and study guide available to public high schools in America. This nationwide educational initiative is the creation of the film’s director, Steve McQueen and TV personality Montel Williams. These 12 Years a Slave educator tool kits (with edited version of the DVD, paperback copy of the book, printed study guide, and letter from McQueen) are now available to all public high school teachers for the 2014-2015 school year.
Once teachers get permission to add this to the curriculum, they can go to www.12yearsaslave.com and click on the button for teachers to opt in and request an educator’s toolkit for their school. This unique program allows students across the country to learn of a tragic time in our country’s past through this beautiful and compelling film that has won more than 132 awards this past year.
I’m curious which scenes will be edited in this MPAA-rated R movie. Just the sex and nudity, or will the violence be toned down, as well. It’s a delicate balance regarding the editing here: too much violence could traumatize highly sensitive students (who have no choice but to watch the film in school), while too little violence sugarcoats the pain and suffering of slavery.
NSBA has the chance to do something valuable for the next generation. Let’s hope they get it right by achieving the perfect editorial balance for high school students.