Globe Editorial

Middle school: Overreacting to Eminem

Eminem performs during a festival in Tennessee. Eminem performs during a festival in Tennessee. (Getty Images)
June 20, 2011

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A teacher’s decision to show an Eminem video to a middle-school class should provoke a debate among parents and educators, but it’s not a matter for law enforcement. A parent in Westborough went to the local police recently after his daughter reported that her seventh-grade teacher had shown a version of the Eminem video “Superman.’’ It’s unclear how much nudity or profanity was in the clip, which was part of a media-analysis curriculum. The parent had a point: If the clip was not edited to remove offensive images, it was inappropriate for 12-year-olds. But the matter would have been better resolved by deciding to avoid the clip next semester, rather than by suspending the teacher, as Westborough did.

Young people are surrounded by foul language and sexual media images, in places parents can’t control. Teachers shouldn’t become so fearful that they don’t even allow popular culture to be discussed in the classroom. Such content can be a bridge to discussing other sensitive topics, such as sex education, school violence, and healthy relationships.

Even if some Westborough seventh-graders may not have been ready for a discussion of Eminem’s videos, suspending the teacher was excessive, and launching a criminal investigation is a clear waste of resources. Those same videos are a few clicks away on YouTube, available to seventh-graders everywhere. Trying to help kids assess them critically and intelligently is hardly a crime.