Woody hit the nail on the head with what the kids are ready for.
We have to take the students' emotional age into consideration with
materials we use - Art, literature, music it doesn't matter. For example
one 5th grade class read Number the Stars, and another read The Devils
Arithmetic last year. Both are books that deal with the Holocaust.
Number the Stars deals with the Danish response to the Nazi
invasion of their country, the work of the resistance, the citizens'
loyalty to the fellow Danes who were Jews that resulted in 90+% of the
Danish Jews surviving. The class that read Number the Stars was a 5th
grade ESL/Bilingual class, and for some of the students it is their
first time in school. The teacher choose Number the Stars in part
because it is a hopeful book - people survive. Something she thought her
children needed to see.
The Devil's Arithmetic is grittier. A girl complaining about
having to attend Passover Seder is transported back in time to a Polish
Village. She tries to warn the villagers of the danger of the Nazi's,
but they do not listen. She is captured with them and transported to a
Concentration camp. The conditions of the camp are fairly vivid. I
choose this book, in part because everyone does not survive. Some of the
main characters of course turn out to be the girl's great-aunt,
grandfather, and other relatives. Many of my kids had already read
Number the Stars on their own. Also my kids were ready academically and
emotionally to address some big issues - the internment camps of WWII
America, Treatment of African-American, and Japanese-American GI's in
WWII, The propaganda that said Catholics in WWII would betray the US on
the Pope's orders, treatment of Native Americans in the past and today
including conditions on reservations, that if the United States
government had had its way earlier none of the "code talkers" would have
been able to speak the Navaho language, the assumption that service men
couldn't tell the difference between a Navaho "code talker" and a
Japanese soldier, and the morality of the orders that the "code
talker's" protectors had to protect the code at all cost including
killing the code talker if captured were some of the subjects that came
up in our WWII Social Studies unit.
The decision of which book to read (both are on the 5th grade
novels list) was based on both academic readiness, and emotional
maturity to handle the material.
From: Woody Duncan [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, July 16, 2002 6:45 AM
To: ArtsEdNet Talk
Subject: Re: "school appropriate" also Art&fear thoughts
E Jane Beckwith wrote:
> How much do you think about what is/is not "school appropriate?" What
> does that term mean to you?
Woody here in KC: I think school appropriate differs with each
one of us.
Of course it varies depending upon the age level we teach. Also, one
kids might be better able to or ready to handle a sensitive subject than
group. More so, I find that teachers differ in there ability to approach
topics well than other teachers. I watched the movie "Pollack" last
night for the
first time. There are portions I plan to show to my students, there are
portions which of course I would never. This topic of "school
be part of discussion in art ed classes and our inservice training. But,
I doubt we
would ever arrive at a consensus as to what was school appropriate.
Mice made from tampax would probably not be school appropriate,
"The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork
is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction
of your artwork that soars." from: "Art & Fear"
This one soars: