NCAC Censorship News Issue #65:
In a decision that affirms the right of students to learn, the Colorado Court of Appeals ordered the Jefferson County School Board to reinstate the high school teacher they had fired for teaching Bertolucci’s film, 1900. Alfred Wilder, an English teacher for 25 years, was dismissed for not obtaining prior approval to show the film about fascism, considered an epic, in his logic and debate class, and for other alleged infractions.
An administrative court had recommended that Wilder be returned to the classroom, finding that he had not violated the school’s policies regarding “controversial teaching,” and declared the film relevant to the curriculum objectives of the course. The School Board rejected the hearing officer’s recommendation but has now been overruled by the state’s court of appeals.
This is a triumph for the right of students to learn about the arts and history and the right of teachers to use challenging materials to stimulate critical thinking.
NCAC brought nationwide attention to the case by organizing the protest, alerting film directors, writers, curators, critics, film scholars, and arts institutions, eighteen of whom signed a letter asking Governor Romer to intercede. They included Judy Blume, Milos Forman, Susan Isaacs, James Ivory, Tony Kushner, and Martin Scorsese. Bertolucci testified in the case by phone from Rome, at NCAC’s prompting (Censorship News 61).
Particularly at this time when some teachers have been chilled by the assaults on teaching ideas in schools — of all places! — the decision is heartening.