In November my daughter returned home from school and told me that a play her class had acted in GCSE drama had a lot of swear words in it and she had felt very uncomfortable about participating in it. She handed me a copy of the play ‘Mogadishu’ * and when I opened it up I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The play contained 218 uses of the F-word and twelve of the C-word. I wrote to the school with my concerns, listing the offensive words and quoting explicit sexual conversations explaining that I did not think was suitable for my 14-year-old daughter to be studying.
In reply the acting head teacher justified the use of the play and said that I was the only parent who had complained, and that Mogadishu was no worse than some Shakespeare or Chaucer. He acknowledged that parents should have been consulted. However I was so dissatisfied I asked to see him in person. Sadly, he continued to justify the use of the play, the implication being that I was an over- protective mother. The chairman of the governors (a mother) also supported the play. However, the school said they would ask the parents of drama students what they thought. So far there has been no further comment on this.
It was suggested that I set up a petition to ask for some controls over school texts to get the Government to put age controls on exposing pupils to swearing. I thought that as my daughter would not be permitted to see such a play in the cinema, we should at least be warned as to its content if it is going to be studied for GCSE.
To give the petition a wider audience I thought Mumsnet would be the best place and way to inform mums and give them the opportunity to sign it. So it was a shock when the discussions from my post were far from supportive but actually hateful! I certainly wasn’t expecting to end up with a barrage of abuse! But one Mumsnet user, who claimed to be a teacher, responded: “Censorship – that’s what you want. So you can impose your middle- England, white, middle-class values on a world that no longer exists.”
I had intended to expose the truth about what is going on in some schools in the name of art. But I found the response so distressing at the time that I asked for Mumsnet to delete the thread as it was neither constructive nor respectful.
Now I just feel sad that some mothers and teachers can be motivated by such hate over an issue which aims to protect children. One is left wondering what motivates them to think and feel this way and that if this is the type of person who endorses the use of this offensive material, then the petition is needed.
I don’t regret my experience at all. In fact, it has given me the opportunity to expose what is going on, and the types of attitudes which are out there in the teaching profession.
I am still hopeful that the ‘Mogadishu’ effect will bring about some beneficial change. In the meantime, if you share my concerns, please do sign my petition and get others to do so too.
*Mogadishu is the debut play of ex-school teacher Vivienne Franzmann dramatising a white teacher who tries to protect her black student from expulsion after he pushes her to the ground, and other school age violence. It was one of four joint winners of the Bruntwood Playwriting Competition and the George Devine Award 2011.