- An art teacher in Utah has lost his job after asking students in a 6th-grade class to pick a piece of art, and discuss the artist’s use of color. The students selected the work from a commercial set in the classroom, which contained nudes. Police came after someone made a pornography complaint, Education Week reports.
- The teacher, Mateo Rueda reportedly told a newspaper he didn’t know nudes were in the collection, and didn’t believe 6th graders should be using them. But a on a reported Facebook post he wrote “art can sometimes show images that are not always comfortable to all,” the articles says.
- The National Art Education Association notes that while the job of art teachers is to present art to students in a way that helps them critically think about the work — they should also consider whether the work is age-appropriate.
The role of teachers is to educate, inform and broaden a student’s mind. To do so, children must be exposed to material that have not seen, heard or known about before. More often than not, this is hardly controversial. While cops have been called when students handed out banned books — police are unlikely to show up to a classroom where kids are calculating the area of a triangle, running a chemical titration or reading the “Berenstain Bears.”
But when choosing materials for social studies, art and literature classes, educators and district curriculum designers may ask themselves: Does the need to teach ever outweigh the need to shield students? A U.S. History class, diving into the Vietnam War, would likely encounter the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning “Napalm Girl” photo, taken in 1972 of a young girl, nude, her clothes burned away by a chemical attack on her village. A class on graphic novels might be looking to include Art Spiegelman's “Maus,” a story about his father surviving the Holocaust as a Polish Jew.
Sometimes choices are made by necessity — elementary school children, for example, aren’t going to be able to understand the language in George Orwell’s “1984.” But those who select the curriculum materials used in higher grades need ensure that they don’t succumb to material they only believe is appropriate, and by default dilute the lesson students are meant to learn, nor short-change their education.