2 — The rights and wrongs when sharing a life story
During this sequence, the students will explore the ethics of life writing, and consider two new life stories. They will begin to consider the implications of becoming life writers.
Activity 1: Ethical life writing
Remind the students of The Little Frenchman from Sequence 1. In the film, the author, David Tytherleigh, touches on how the story came to be and why he believes it is important. Keeping the following statement in mind, share a repeat viewing of The Little Frenchman.
Telling a life story is a big responsibility: to get it right, to be respectful of the individual, and to do justice to that life. Deciding what can be told, and what should remain private, or who can tell the stories of someone’s life can be difficult, and are aspects of ethical behaviour (behaviour that is seen to be good or morally right according to a set of principles).
As a means of exploring ethics and life stories, the students should consider this scenario: imagine that the author of The Little Frenchman hosts a screening of the film for neighbours in his backyard, and Roger’s ghost attends.
- What might make Roger feel proud, embarrassed, sad, grateful, angry or another emotion?
- Provide the students with Ethical principles of life writing and discuss these principles in relation to this scenario.
- What did David know and do before he shared this digital life story?
- What are the ethical issues here? ACELA1551, ACELT1633, ACELY1745
Activity 2: Privacy and permission
‘We screamed from below deck, with what little energy we had,
hoping they would take us aboard. They never did.’ (Journey to Freedom, page 201)
Touch on the possible strengths and appeals of print-only life stories compared to digital stories, and vice versa. The consideration of the affordability (potential and possible uses) of different media will be a focus of Sequence 5.
Students should identify aspects of the story that may be considered sensitive or private. As a class, consider the ethics of telling the story of someone newly arrived in Australia as a refugee. What might be the consequences of showing images or giving precise details of their life now? ACELA1551, ACELT1633, ACELY1745, ACELT1772
Activity 3: The benefits and risks of disclosure
As a class, watch the video clip Street Kids. Discuss the meaning of disclosure (making something that has hitherto been private known to others) in relation to ethics. Ask the students:
- What information about himself has Dmitry disclosed in this story, and are there possible positive or risky consequences? (Half of the class is to focus on positive consequences; the other half is to focus on risky consequences.)
- What aspects of the story seem more convincing coming from the person who has experienced them, and does disclosure make the story more powerful?
- Imagine a journalist telling Dmitry’s story: what might be some ethical considerations of that version?
Activity 4: Getting ready to be a life writer
Assessment task 2 asks that the students construct a life story in the third person, enabling them to interact with someone else. Ensure that clear deadlines for the submission of the proposal are established, and that the students understand that the consent of their subject is required. Compiling the story within the word/time limit is part of the skill of constructing this text. Note that still images, even those taken on just one occasion, can be as powerful as video (see Demander 24/7 Roller Derby Queen).
Consult with the students to ensure that their subject:
- is accessible two or three times over the coming weeks
- has a story to share and is willing to be involved.
Ensure that the students’ plans take account of: