Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What is appropriate?

I'm trying to be a team player. I'm trying to take things from my training that will make me a better teacher. I've gotten a few things that I think will be helpful. It will help me refine what I already do. I look at all the objectives and see that I teach at a high level already (with the kids kicking and screaming all the way because they don't WANT to work).

We're supposed to teach lessons from the PBS Series Art 21. Our district has spent some money to get us copies of the series. I was "gifted" with the first three seasons yesterday.

I understand the value of contemporary art.
I understand that we should teach our students things that are relevant to their experiences. However, our kids understand graffiti and billboards. Shouldn't we try to extend their experiences to let them know about the rich tradition of Art in our culture? Shouldn't we let them know that about the Ninja Turtles? Shouldn't they know about Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael?

I was a good drone today. I plugged in the first season of Art 21 and started watching. I watch. The first segment is on sculptor Richard Serra and it's very dry (which is sad because I love his work) and there is a lot of time that had no talking that shows people walking around in a museum and our kids will be drooling on the desk if we make them watch that. The next segment is on photographer Sally Mann. Her stuff is gorgeous. However, she shows a number of photographs of her children in the nude. I can appreciate the art of her work, but I don't want to have to deal with my students going home and saying "Teacher showed me pictures of naked children."

I loved Mappelthorpe's photographs of children running through a sprinkler. They were artfully done. He got in trouble with the National Endowment for the Arts because of this. Some of his work is not appropriate to share with our students. Some is. I cannot get over the staged photographs of Sally Mann's own children. She's been considered to be a source of pedophilic materials. Is this what we need to be showing our high school children? The Art 21 video shows her young daughter tweaking her own nipple in the photograph. This does not possess the spontaneity that the sprinkler kids demonstrated.

I think Art21 is an interesting and provocative program. For adults. I don't think this program has any place that is appropriate for high school students. I would recommend it if the parents of minor children had screened all the material and approved it for their own children. I would have allowed my personal children to see the material on this site ONLY after I had previewed it myself and had prepared myself to answer questions that would certainly be generated by the images shown here.

I push the envelope in my art history class by showing Annie Liebovitz's photo of Lance Armstrong. There is nothing explicit in the photograph but he IS nude. He's one solid man made of muscle. It's a wonderful exploration of the human form.

I would not show Sally Mann's photographs of her children ever to our high school children.
I do not want to have to deal with the issues of our children telling their parents that we showed them pictures of nude children.

I love art. I love it in all of its forms. I can appreciate the strange and bizarre.

I just have limitations. I teach minor children. I'm being asked to direct our minor children (13 year olds in some cases) to look at a site that shows things that I would not allow my own children to view.

Does anyone smell a lawsuit here? I don't want to be on the news because I'm being mandated to display things that I find objectionable.

I'm in between a rock and a hard place. The district, as represented, is shoving this curriculum down my throat. It doesn't seem to matter that the presenter seems confused.

I can't go there. I know that we need to make our students think. I'm all for thinking. Thinking is a good thing. I just don't think that we should be mandated to make them think about images of bondage and fetishism and nude children as a mandated part of our curriculum.

Is that wrong?