January 5th, 1932
FROM THE ARCHIVES:The supposedly malign influence of Hollywood on children was a concern with the arrival of talking pictures.
‘The ‘talkies’ have come to stay,” we are repeatedly being told by cinema authorities. This will be bad news for Free State school-teachers, who are seriously perturbed at what they term the Americanisation of their pupils’ speech through the influence of the screen. Pupils returning now from their holidays are showing to a marked degree the results of their brief liberation from school discipline by their strong nasal accents and their new selection of American slang expressions.
“With the addition to their vocabularies of more American slang, there comes a slackening in their amenability to discipline,” I was told yesterday by the headmaster of a Dublin elementary school. “I have heard of cases of children responding to statements from their teachers with a derisive ‘Oh, yeah’ or ‘Sez you.’ It is bad enough when a boy acknowledges an order with the reply, ‘Okay chief,’ but imagine the position of a headmaster who is addressed in a nasal drawl with the words ‘Okay baby.’”
“I find that my pupils pick up American with much greater facility than they do Irish,” admitted the principal of a large secondary school in the city. “It shows how the Government, with all their good intentions, fail to take a comprehensive view of juvenile problems, so that what is achieved in one direction is almost nullified by what they neglect to do in other directions.
“The Government has set up a film censorship, but the standard they have set is mostly an adult, or, at least, an adolescent, one. Considering that such a tremendous proportion of the cinema’s patrons are children, should there not be be a very strict supervision over the type of films that are shown to juveniles? Both educationally and morally, children would benefit by the prohibition for juvenile showing of films dealing with life in the American underworld. These are more dangerous to the very young than the sex films with which the censors are mainly concerned.”
Girls, according to the principal of a girls’ school in the city, are subject in the same degree as boys to the influence of the talkies. “They were not influenced,” she said, “in quite the same way as boys were by the moral standards of the films, and so the silent films were much less harmful, but they pick up the Yankee slang very easily. This is bound to be derogatory to their vocabularies; for the language that is used in films is not even the language of cultured Americans. The worst aspect of the case is that, having once mastered the half-dozen phrases which seem to complete this slang vocabulary, they no longer need to think when taking part in conversation, for one phrase is regarded as an adequate comment on almost any situation.
“An increase in the number of British films might help matters. At all events, the prospect for the English language – and I suppose one might very well say the Irish language, too – is very black unless the Government takes some action in the interests of education to deal with the question.”
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