Using scenes from the film Term of Trial to explore the topic of student-teacher relations…
Term of Trial is a 1962 film directed by Peter Glenville, starring Laurence Olivier and Sarah Miles. It explores the complex dynamics which develop between a teacher (Olivier) and the young student (Miles) he’s tutoring. Here are some scenes:
(Any problems with the embedded video, view directly on Vimeo here.)
Some questions for discussion:
– According to the film, what is the ideal form of student-teacher decorum, or is this question left open?
– What are the responsibilities of the student and teacher to ensure that no misunderstandings develop?
– One sociological theory is that reality is socially constructed. How does this apply to a situation involving disputed events? Expand, amplify.
– Can perceptions about decorum be influenced by pre-existing stereotypes about race, nationality, religion, gender, and age? Give examples where stereotypes about a teacher or student might influence how events are interpreted.
– A perceived breach of decorum may lead to judgments about the people involved, or even legal consequences. One set of moral and ethical values may clash with another. How are we to know who’s right?
– In daily social interactions, we constantly give each other cues which reinforce shared ethical systems without explicitly stating values. Cite examples of this in the film or in real life.
– Is the case made that society’s values differ from those of one or both of the film’s protagonists? Are any clues given about society’s values?
– When people develop hardened positions on issues and events, how likely are those positions to change in real life?
– Are social, legal, and educational institutions highly flexible in their responses to individual incidents, or is there a tendency for certain machinery to automatically kick in? Explain.
– In the mainstream media, many stories are couched in terms of victim and victimizer. Can you think of any examples?
– Once the roles of victim and victimizer have been clearly defined, do they ever change? Does this happen frequently or rarely?
– Are societal institutions better or worse than individuals at judging the truth about particular events? Justify your answer.
– In the film, what are Shirley Taylor’s motivations for accusing Graham Weir?
– Reconcile these two statements: 1. A victim should always be believed. 2. A person is innocent until proven guilty.
– In the film, why does Graham Weir (or the school where he taught) not sue Shirley Taylor for defamation of character? Is it out of kindness? Would such a suit be justified under UK law, and stand a good chance of succeeding?
– How does the modern Internet era affect the underlying issues? Suppose Shirley Taylor only made her accusations on Blogspot or Facebook? Would she still be liable under UK law?
The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.
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