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How to handle nudity in projects - Thanks Arthur


From: Judy Decker (jdecker_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Jul 20 2003 - 10:25:50 PDT

You are right IS an issue with parents and administrators.

I am posting this to ALL list serves since we all deal with this - and I am doing a feature on Incredible Art Department with Great Sites for Photography.
I am not saying in my description that some have nudity - I am saying that Teachers need to preview these sites before using with students. THAT is the way I am handling nudity from here on out on the sites. (Just putting the word 'nude" can block the site on some school servers).
I would write a letter to parents explaining the assignment - explaining what they might find in the library books and get them to understand first and talk about it with their children.
Have them sign a permission slip just like they do to use the Internet (and yes, just like they do for Sex education). That way, what they find in the books isn't "your fault".

World Teachers - I know this isn't as much of a problem with you - post how you have solved the problem (this is something world teachers get to joke about American art education).

Middle school is a good age to deal with this in art (I am so glad many of you are starting even with elementary)

This is how I dealt with nudity in my class room:

I showed a video "Florence: Cradle of the Renaissance"

When they showed the sculpture of David - they pan up and stop right at his genitals. I tell the kids "OK close your eyes now because I am not allowed to show you this....So if you go home and tell your parents it is not my fault - it is yours. And if they still get 'mad at me' for showing you something so offensive then ask them this - So you wouldn't let me go into an art museum and appreciate some of the greatest art in the world? You won't let me value what some of the greatest artists have created?" You bet - I never had a complaint from a parent on an image I showed in art class.

On nudity in National Geographic and African Art videos:
National Geographic - I tell them when we use the magazines for finding images "Now be sure to leaf through them all and find all of the pictures of the bare breasted women. I know that is something you kids like to see (smile)" They of course chuckle and say "We wouldn't do that".....Then I also say, "That's good....they don't dress that way anymore...'We' taught them how to dress - many wear our style of clothes now..... Now to find naked ladies in Africa, you have to go to the nude beaches and see all of the white folks sun bathing. Now what is wrong with this picture?" They love hearing my stories.....and they do remember them. I always gave them a taste of the real world - we just ran things differently in our art room culture. I also throw in that "They don't do a lot of the things they used to do to enjoy life - we told them that was all wrong -- and now they are pretty miserable - Things aren't so good in Africa today."

I went through the same routine on an image of Ndbele women in a video - told them to close their eyes (since I am not allowed to edit the video) -- then hit them with the real world irony.

GET the Kids to SEE what is wrong with the real world....they are the ones who can make the changes...In time, it will happen.

Loved talking with you today about this topic,

Judy Decker

P.S. I never had a parent complaint about something a student found on the Internet - I only had a complaint from the Tech Guy. He came in and told my entire class. It just happened to be something that child was supposed to be viewing - that image was of that child's hero (another long story - but in short - it was a rap star)....but that tech guy embarrassed that student in front of my entire class! I HATE adult behavior! I had staff members and administrators all the time walking right into my room with something they wanted to embarrass me about (long stories).....but my door was always open to them -- even when it was closed -- they just opened it and walked right in. So - you are getting a little more of the real picture. Of course, I had to react in a fun and humorous way so that the students wouldn't see my real feelings. I would usually say a "whoops - and thank them profusely for pointing out my error - I would take care of it right away". I would teach kids to find humor in their mistakes. After the interruption would leave, I would say "See even teachers make mistakes....and we would just move on". I couldn't tell them what I was really thinking.
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Arthur Bell

  I hope it doesn't happen to me, but I'm looking at worst case
  scenario. I'm a new photo teacher with middle schoolers. I'm working
  more on photojournalism, but part of the lessons will be portraits,
  and maybe fashion. If the kids do research at the library and the
  parents see nudity in some of the books, how do I handle the
  principal or irate parents if they complain. I'm hoping someone with
  experience in this area can pass along some pearls of wisdom that I
  can say if I'm ever confronted with this. At the University level,
  maybe even high school, I don't see it being an issue, but with this
  age group, I'm not sure.