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FROM THE COURTROOM TO THE CLASSROOM: MPAA Looks to Send Message Through School Curriculum

Monday, Nov. 11, 2013

In the most recent development in the longstanding debate over the role of corporations in the production of school curriculum, the Center for Copyright Information is creating a school curriculum to teach elementary age students the evils of piracy and the importance of protecting copyrights. Backed by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the curriculum named “Be the Creator,” is still under revision, but is aimed at students in kindergarten through 6th grade. The project has faced heavy criticism, as many see it as another tool to push Hollywood’s biased agenda. Others have raised the concern that this curriculum will take away from valuable class time, in an age where public schools are struggling to effectively teach the basics. Then again, copyrights and patents are an important part of our economic system, and organizations like the MPAA are entitled to promote their interests. The question remains, should the classroom be off-limits to this type of discourse, or is the MPAA in the clear?

  Patrick: An education, among other things, should prepare an individual to be a citizen capable of contributing to the democratic process. By and large, this means teaching them how to think, not what to think. “Be Creative” is not about teaching creativity, it’s about the MPAA trying to stop the next wave of would be copyright violators. If you want to teach kids the importance of creativity, you don’t start with copyrights and fair use doctrine. How about funding creative writing programs, on-campus theatre productions, or even filmmaking courses?

  Kirk: The debate over the role of corporations in the production of curricular materials is even more important today, where individual teachers can pick and choose the material they incorporate in the classroom from online resources. Given this, it is incredibly easy to incorporate material from advocacy groups, despite the assumption that school materials are insulated from these pressures. While corporations are entitled, and even encouraged, to contribute to the “basics” such as math, science, and technology, but “Be the Creator” crosses the line. Schools are going to need to introduce new ways to monitor the curricular materials that make their way into the classroom.

MPAA backs anti-piracy curriculum for elementary school students (LA Times)

"Be Creative" Curriculum: Scope and Sequence (Common Sense Media)

A Framework for Thinking Ethically (Markkula Center for Applied Ethics)



Comments Comments

david said on Nov 12, 2013
We need to start with a proper history of copyright and trademark. It was an invention by the British who fought the Irish "pirates" who printed materials without permission. This concept is only 150 years old. This concept was later adopted by the USA and others like MPAA. It is the foundation for alleged violations of this concept in places like China where the laws are already in place, but not the resources for enforcement. As such, this concept is not clear and can easily confuse our children in primary schools. Especially in the USA, most citizens believe the "creator" is God. The key question here is: Who will review this concept and approve the curricula for implementation? - Like - 1 person likes this.
Patrick Coutermarsh said on Nov 12, 2013
David, Thanks for the post! Good thinking on looking to the source of copyright/trademark law. Do you have any thoughts on how that history should impact our thinking toward the curriculum, or copyright/trademark in general? -- Patrick - Like
Theodora Issa said on Nov 15, 2013
Well, following the recent transgressions in the corporate world - we need to be careful who we would invite to participate in the curriculum development. Well, I just had a brilliant experience with the engagement of industry in the unit that I teach some seven prominent executives from the public and the private sector gave their time and effort to present my students with the latest in relation to the theories of management and organisational behaviour - providing a real case study from their lives... which was very highly appreciated by students. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Patrick Coutermarsh said on Nov 15, 2013
Theodora, Excellent point. It's easy to overreact and rule out any corporate participation in education. The corporate world has a great deal of insight to pass on to students, now it's a matter of striking the right balance. --Patrick - Like
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