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From: Patricia Knott (pknott_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Jul 09 2001 - 14:29:08 PDT

This is a difficult issue and something that needs to be addressed in the
classroom before there is an "incident" at an art show.
I have rules about subject matter and appropriateness that run a fine line
with personal expression. I am in a public a school and there are rules
about things like nudity, sexual innuendoes, drugs, alcohol, violence...
Those students who I know are pursuing concepts that may be potentially
controversial, I take aside and explain the possible problems. Sometimes
some things need to stay in the classroom between teacher, student, and
understanding peers. I am not sure many high school students have the
maturity for dealing with a public controversy and the consequences.
But in that regard, I am willing to go to bat for a student that I see
making choices for expression and not just being controversial for it's own
sake. And I have done that . Argued up and down with principal,
superintendent, school board members... when I see a legitimate infringement
on expression.

This year I had a student who wants to be a film maker. He made many videos
concerning violence against woman. The imagery was very disturbing . But
because I know he had true
"intent" and had done much research, not only on the subject but on the
history and style of great film makers, I "permissioned" his pursuit.
Before the art show I reviewed the videos with my principal and gave him a
clear understanding that this young man was very clear in his content. The
principal was okay with it, still I feared there would be some

Lo and behold, his videos were not a problem. It was a piece of art that a
student tried to sneak into the show - and I hesitate to call it art - it
was obviously not executed by the student and was politically sensitive, so
I wouldn't allow it.

I think I impressed on him that there are standards and that shock for shock
value is not necessarily art - or creative.

More and more we have a responsibility at the high school level t teach that
not everything "goes." We need to teach the history of controversy and
censorship in art as best we can. Cause I fear too many students have the
impression that if they call it art then it is.

As for your situation Chris,
I would have taken on the principal and given him a few lessons in art
I think you are perfectly justified in feeling angry. Your responsibility
and judgement as an teacher was overlooked. You need to make your views on
the right of expression known. If your student was brave enough to display
his thoughts , then he needs to be supported.

...Oh here we go again with football players being treated differently.
Any of you ever had an art student who addressed that issue?