Teach PA History
"Disapproved": Censorship of Film in Pennsylvania
What to Know
Teaching Time
2-50 minute sessions
Grade Level
High School
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Civics and Government
  • History
Historical Period
  • The Emergence of Modern Pennsylvania - 1901-1928
  • The Great Depression and World War II - 1929-1945
  • Post-WWII Pennsylvania - 1946-1974
  • Contemporary Pennsylvania - 1975 to Present
The censoring of films has always been a highly debated issue surrounding the rights found in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Leading the way in 1911, Pennsylvania became the first state to pass a film censorship law, creating the Pennsylvania Board of Motion Picture Censors. In this lesson, students will analyze primary source documents of the 1920s to find the roots of film censorship and understand Pennsylvania's leadership in this movement. Afterward, they will analyze government censorship documents that banned a film in Pennsylvania and compare and contrast their earlier findings to the modern-day rating system used for films.


Students will be able to:

  1. Analyze perspectives of film censorship from the 1920s and 1930s by examining primary source documents.

  2. Synthesize information on film censorship by composing a summary chart of censorship items.

  3. Use their understanding of film censorship in the 1920s and 1930s to construct an understanding of current film rating systems.

Standards Alignment

  • Arts and Humanities

    9.2.12. D Analyze a work of art from its historical and cultural perspective.

  • Civics and Government

    5.2.12. C. Interpret the causes of conflict in society and analyze techniques to resolve those conflicts.
    5.2.12. F. Evaluate how individual rights may conflict with or support the common good.
    5.3.12. G. Evaluate how the government protects or curtails individual rights and analyze the impact of supporting or opposing those rights.

  • History

    8.1.12. A. Evaluate chronological thinking.
    8.1.12. B. Synthesize and evaluate historical sources.
    8.1.12. C. Evaluate historical interpretation of events.
    8.1.12. D. Synthesize historical research.
    8.2.12. B. Identify and evaluate primary documents, material artifacts, and historic sites important in Pennsylvania history from 1890 to Present.
    8.2.12. C. Identify and evaluate how continuity and change have influenced Pennsylvania history.
    8.2.12. D. Identify and evaluate conflict and cooperation among social groups and organizations in Pennsylvania history.
    8.3.3. B. Identify and describe primary documents, material artifacts and historic sites important in United States history.

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