I don't ban anything. You heard me! I don't. I do have a rule that
anything that is to be exhibited, worn, or otherwise shown publicly
must be school-appropriate material and that means it has to be
something that, if worn on a T-shirt on dress-down-days (we have
uniforms), wouldn't get them sent to put on uniforms. Other than
that, they are welcome to create art based on anything they like, at
Here's the catch -- I won't grade anything that is not
school-appropriate (see above.) So they can make anything they want,
but I can only put my stamp of approval on art that is considered
"school appropriate." Anything that is not in this list is fine, and
I will look at it and offer suggestions and help them with the
projects... I just can't make it a classroom project.
You'd be surprised... most kids don't really "push the limits" when I
put it this way. I think that knowing that they have artistic freedom
but that I am limited in grading by what I can put the school's "stamp
of approval" on as a school official, so far they've been pretty
respectful. I've had a few try to sneak pot leaves into palm trees
and whatnot, but I usually just laugh and say, "you're kidding,
right?" and they quickly edit it and everybody gets a good laugh.
There have also been a few really cool "social commentary" pieces done
by advanced art students outside of class that might be controversial
if exhibited at school (but man, they were NEAT, thought-provoking
pieces! I was impressed!) Those were usually included in AP Art
portfolios and exhibits that students were able to enter on their own.
The more I try to make some subjects forbidden, the more they tend to
dwell on those subjects whenever possible. If it's not a big deal and
they have that "safety net" of being able to do those projects outside
of school, it's really never an issue in class. I might have to
tighten up if someone ever really tries to test me, but in 4 years of
teaching here, I've never had that problem. Thank God -- if it did
get so bad that I really had to ban everything offensive, we would be
left with Thomas Kincaide art. :)
Charleston Catholic High School
On Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 9:36 AM, <email@example.com> wrote:
> Several times on various listservs the issue of prohibition of
> certain kinds of images has been discussed.
> Catherine has posted a response to a student's religion inspired
> art, forbidden by a school.
> She mentions other subjects, such as drugs and weapons that can be
> limited in art class.
> Some schools or art teachers publish lists of subjects considered
> transgressive, and I have heard teachers refer to these as "ATF"
> (after alcohol, tobacco, and firearms). Some topics given have been
> mushrooms, marijuana leaves, ninja and other weapons, gang symbols,
> drawings or paintings of violence, sexually explicit images (such
> as nudes), references to gender identity, derogatory images about
> race and creed, cigarettes and smoking, alcohol and drinking, works
> that are political and may be interpreted as disloyal to the
> This brings up a deeper "philosphical" question for me:
> What is it that moves one to make an image considered transgressive
> or offensive by some? In young people is it just about testing
> What moves people to be so offended that they prohibit images? What
> makes them fearful or worried about the images?
> What is the role of iconoclasm in the current culture?
> Some art teachers have written that they encourage students to make
> their work that might be questioned in private, at home or in
> journals that only the teacher and student see. Others say they
> allow strong or difficult images if they can be defended.
> Clearly young people are moved to express the subject matter that
> most salient to them. If they are struggling with impulses; if they
> are trying to figure out some aspect of their identity, such as
> spiritual or gender; if they are coping with interpersonal
> violence; if they are dealing with a crisis at home or with their
> friends, if the influence of their peers is driving them to
> experiment with drugs or sex - all of these normal adolescent
> issues might come out in their art work.
> Then - in the background for most of us who teach art in schools -
> we have examples from the "art world" when professional artists
> exhibiting in museums and galleries take on social, emotional,
> religious, sexual, gender based, political themes, expressing
> difficulties and protesting about them through their art.
> Sometimes, as in the "Sensation" exhibits of 9 years ago, the
> general public learns of these works through the media and protests
> them, or the ideas they express.
> (Some of you may remember that New York's mayor wanted to defund
> Brooklyn Museum because he was personally offended by works that
> appeared to him to mock the Catholic faith).
> Those teachers who encourage students to include images from
> culture and who are interested in using visual culture ideas across
> the curriculum might also be considering what they should limit.
> Some of us have reported having to turn student work in to
> administrators. If a student seems to be disturbed. School violence
> is a concern.
> Ours is a sensitive and delicate job, helping young people sort
> themselves out in their beliefs and their needs in the art room. It
> is a real challenge to be up to it.
> Along with sharing great lesson plans, it's always helpful to hear
> responses about subjects such as the above from the list.
> Jane in Brooklyn
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