It’s one thing to argue for warning ahead of sensitive subjects and materials, but to call for them to be shut out entirely isn’t conducive to a university education.
Last week, when a Queen’s student posted a video to Facebook of pornography being displayed in her class, it sparked an online debate about what constitutes educational material.
Students have the right to be warned beforehand when the material in question can be potentially disturbing and given the option to leave class while it’s shown. That being said, when adequate warning is given to prepare students for uncomfortable subject matter, professors are justified in choosing to show it in their classrooms.
In this case, the pornography in question was in relation to a larger class discussion concerning gender dynamics in the adult film industry. The video was used as an example in the context of a class discussion and was included on the syllabus of the course.
Before playing the video, the professor gave her students one final chance to leave the class. One student who opposed the video being shown didn’t take this chance and instead chose to post about it on social media.
While the student objected to the material, the professor in this instance did everything they were required to prepare the class for the clip. As for the question of whether a graphic video needed to be shown to have a class discussion on pornography, the answer is no. However, the professor used the clip because she believed it would have more of an impact on the class than a traditional discussion, which is within her rights as an educator.
Just because there are ways for professors to get around actually showing uncomfortable material in class doesn’t mean they should. Merely discussing things without seeing them may get the desired point across, but it doesn’t have the same effect as being faced with the real thing. Watching upsetting things can add to a class as long as professors go about showing them in a considerate way, which this professor did.
Fundamentally, education is supposed to be jarring. If you’re really learning something, it should be hard to swallow. Even though it may seem extreme, showing pornography in class was the way in which the professor chose to get the class discussion to stick in her students’ minds and force them to reflect.
While there was likely more than one student who was made uncomfortable by the video, they were all made aware of what they were about to watch. This professor may have pushed the boundaries of what’s considered a teaching tool, but still did their due diligence to prepare their students for the contents of the class.
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