Sunday Star Times 19 October 2008
NCEA English markers are disturbed that secondary school students are studying “very dark” films and literature and are warning teachers to be more careful about showing younger students films with R16 and R18 ratings. Under censorship rules this could mean a $10,000 fine. The markers’ comments are published in NZQA’s assessment reports from the 2007 English exams these annual reports are drawn up by the country’s top markers and outline what students did well, what they did poorly, and how they could improve.
…Level 1 markers said they were concerned that lots of poems and short stories studied were “of a disturbing or brutal nature”. Examples they gave were Miss Heroin, Opium for my Mother Black Cat and Victim. At Level 2, markers were disturbed that some students “wrote inappropriately” on hard-hitting New Zealand works such as Apirana Taylor’s short story In the Rubbish Tin, about domestic violence and neglect in New Zealand that focuses on a young girl being abused. Markers were also “concerned with the preponderance of texts with very dark subject matter, and the study of R18 films by 16 and 17-year-olds”. One marker reported 25% of all film answers nationally were about The Shawshank Redemption, an R16 1994 film about life in prison. This film was popular at all three exam levels. R16 films Crash, about racial conflict in America and American Beauty, a dark look at suburbia, were also popular with students last year. No examples of R18 films were given.