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[teacherartexchange] avoiding violent themes


Date: Tue Dec 25 2007 - 04:52:13 PST

Happy and Peaceful Christmas to all

In the United States teachers are required to take a violence
prevention course in some states in order to be certified.

Among other subjects, that course lets us know we are responsible
for reporting violent writing and images to administration in our

Last year the diary of a Columbine H.S. student who killed in 1999
was released to the media. The diary showed his violent thoughts in
drawings he had made.

It is now thought that violent materials created by students can be
used as diagnostic tools, to predict acting out violent behavior.

This was far from the case in the past. Not so long ago, looking at
violent drawings that you describe, we would have recognized the
influence of popular culture and said the common thing, "Oh well,
boys will be boys."

This phrase explained and excused a lot of behavior such as play
fighting, war games, cowboys and indians (when I was growing up I
had two toy "cap" guns and was often a cowgirl in these games).

So violent themes were lamented by parents and teachers in the
not-so-olden-days, but not seen as pathology. At most we might have
wondered if the angry drawings simply meant the child was 'working
through' some disappointment or growing up confusion. We might have
asked a child to tell us about the drawing but not felt obliged to
report it. A lot of "good" children can express themselves with
such images.

It seems to new parents quite amazing that when little boys play,
anything can become a gun or a sword. I saw this in my own son and
his friends even when they were small. Most parents today try to do
what you say, promote peaceful play. However, even kids as little as
3 who don't see violent material on TV because parents limit them to
watching only peaceful or sesame street (as I did) - even these
kids somehow figure out weaponry and creating violent sounds like
"Bang, Pow." They like to make machine noises and are fascinated by
large and loud trucks, etc.

What is natural and what is learned is always a question. In any
case, we now have the interesting phenomenon of children making the
kinds of images you describe inspired by what they see and hear in
their lived lives, and the encouragement of some art education
leaders to bring popular and visual contemporary culture (like
robots and manga) into the art classroom, combined with the warning
that we should not take a violent image for granted as a normal
expression of kids in schools and the above mentioned
responsibility of reporting violent material.

Many teachers are worried to be put in the position to interpret
when we are not psychologists or diagnostitions of pathology.

Therefore, to protect themselves and their jobs, some teachers in
middle and high schools resort to censorship and encourage
self-censorship. Some schools require art teachers to tell students
what kinds of images are inappropriate. Not just weapons or violent
images, but gang symbols, cigarettes, mushrooms, other drug
symbols, alcohol, occult symbols, nudity or partial nudity,
sexuality and gender identity references and so forth - societal

Do you belong to an art teacher association? Do you discuss this
subject and other art education concerns with your peers? Do your
administrators help you with a question such as this?

Good luck teaching for a more peacful world.

Jane in Brooklyn NY

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