Educators Issue 'Parent Advisory' On Post-Nuclear-War TV Program
As students in a number of schools across the country began a "Week of Education" on nuclear-arms issues last week, the National Education Association and other education organizations were seeking to warn teachers and parents about the likelihood that a forthcoming television special depicting the effects of a nuclear attack would be emotionally disturbing for children.
The National Education Association, which for many years issued endorsements of television programs it considered sound educationally and which supports a freeze on nuclear-weapons deployment, sent out its first "parent advisory" on a television program. The message warned parents that the abc drama, "The Day After," which depicts the aftermath of a nuclear explosion in Kansas City, Mo., may be too frightening for some young children.
"We're extemely concerned about how children may react to this powerful film," said Mary H. Futrell, the nea president. "We believe that parents, under no circumstances, should allow their children to watch this program alone."
The American Federation of Teachers also has reservations about the film, said Scott Widmeyer, spokesman for the teachers' union. "We caution against children watching the film," he said, and added that the "sensational" nature of the movie puts it in the category of "scare-tactic material" that the union has cautioned its members against when educating students on the nuclear-weapons issue. "The country would be much better served with a documentary," he said.
"We think a discussion [on nuclear weapons] should be free and open and look at both sides--what the Soviet Union has done in terms of buildup, what the United States has done," Mr. Widmeyer said.
The aft supports a mutual and verifiable nuclear freeze.
Educators for Social Responsibility, a Massachusetts-based teachers' group that seeks to encourage nuclear-education programs in schools, issued a similar warning to parents and teachers about the program.
"We do not think 'The Day After' is an appropriate film for children under 12," said Tony Wagner, national executive director of esr The group is recommending that children between the ages of 12 and 16 see the film only in the company of adults.
"The Day After" depicts so realistically the devastation that would result from a nuclear attack, esr officials said, that they "are concerned that the terrifying events in the film may generate in viewers feelings of powerlessness, depression, or despair, as well as genuine fear."
The film will air on Nov. 20--50 years, almost to the day, after formal relations were established between the United States and the Soviet Union.
In order to make the film an effective learning experience, rather than a "shattering emotional ordeal," many of the 80 local chapters of esr have initiated teacher-training programs that "prepare teachers for the day after 'The Day After,"' said Mr. Wagner.
The group is supplying teachers with a series of questions designed to assist them in leading a class discussion of the film and various nuclear issues. Questions such as, "What was your reaction to the film?" "How did it make you feel?" and "Do you think it was a realistic portrayal?" will address students' immediate concerns about the film, according to Mr. Wagner. For broader discussions, the group has developed questions on nuclear-arms policy and defense policy, he said.
abc is also distributing an eight-page viewers' guide on the film that includes background information about the movie and a list of recommended books on the subject of nuclear war.
According to a spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Boston-based group that carries out research and education activities on science-policy issues, some 2,000 schools participated in last week's educational programs. Activities in schools and communities across the nation, the spokesman said, included writing letters to other students in the Soviet Union, classroom and panel discussions of the history of nuclear weapons and of U.S.-Soviet relations, conferences, and political-action workshops.