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Re: guns...yikes!


From: Dennis Freeman (freemad_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Feb 24 2002 - 10:37:16 PST

on 2/20/02 5:23 PM, Doris Wilbur at wrote:

 way too many boys have picked the gunsmith as their trade. They had a long
list of occupations we went over, but that was their choice. I've insisted
it be a flintlock rifle or flintlock pistol, but still don't like the images
in my artroom. It has become a springboard for discussion about why we don't
need so many guns now, (we have supermarkets, a police force, an army). When
I asked my class today how many had guns in their homes all but 3 raised
their hands. Some said they had as many as 7 guns in the house! I do live in
a rural, hunting area, but it's disturbing to me. Has anyone of you had to
deal with guns in artwork? Doris in rural NY

Doris - I can see the problem with too many of one sign, but I am at a loss
about the whole "gun thing". Your reaction to the fact that many of the
boys liked guns & chose gunsmithing looks like imposition of current mores
and values on the past, and maybe a slant toward "politically correct"
teaching & thinking.

First, 18th Century America was not like 20th Century America. Guns were
tools, and expensive ones, which were often neccesary in the lives of people
at that time. Today, they have become more symbols than tools (at least for
those people who fear them). A discussion with the kids about the place of
firearms then and now would be possible and useful, but only if you can
overcome the shock that many of your students come from households that own
guns. Why is that so bad? Yes, we have supermarkets, but many of us still
harvest our own meat the "old" way (no antibiotics or growth hormones, a
real connection with my food supply, and low cholesterol!). If you eat
meat, but are repulsed by killing animals, then you have a philosophic /
moral problem, not your students or their families.

A last note (and yes, I expect to be castigated by the anti-gun folks): I
own several flintlock guns and rifles, and they are things of great beauty,
apart from their function as weapons. Long, handcarved maple stocks, cast
and forged brass or iron furniture, intricate, handmade lock mechanisms and
sometimes engraving or wire inlay qualify many 18th & 19th Century arms as
art - they are certainly much more beautiful than my modern firearms, and
yes, I own some of those. So far, my two children have not become serial
killers, and my students don't think of me as the "gun nut" in the art room.

I don't mean any of this as an attack, but since you are a new teacher, I
would encourage you to examine your own biases and values when looking at
student work. I would also encourage you to rethink this lesson in the
future so that the contribution of all the crafts and trades in early
America could be appreciated by the kids.

Dennis in Wyo.