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[teacherartexchange] re Supreme Court Ruling / censorship

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From: Richard Gross (ralight_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Jul 04 2007 - 09:11:05 PDT


Responses re Supreme Court Ruling?

I am a high school art teacher, teaching photography. Censorship is an
issue that I struggled with for years, but have come to a conclusion as
to how to deal with it. I am comfortable with my current practice and
policy.

As far nudity in art goes, I explain to my students that figure study
has been a universal subject matter of art for thousands of years. I
explain to my students that I expect them to act like young mature
adults and I will be treating them with that respect. If nudity in art
is an issue for them, then I simply will omit it from our lessons. I
have only had to do this once in one of my classes.

While I do not flaunt it in my classes, I don’t shy away from it
either. I show images of master photographers on a regular basis
during my “Photographer of the Week” art/photo history lectures. There
are nude imagines that are included that are germane to the topic at
hand. I make reference to Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” when I
implement my “Calendar Girls” lesson plan.

I have had no issues with administration or parents. If I did I have
three-fold explanation ready for them. I would first explain as I
stated previously that nudity has been a universal subject matter in
art for thousands of years. I would also show that the that state
visual arts standards has no mention of censorship what so ever.
Lastly; Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”, Michelangelo’s “David”, and
countless nudes from masters of photography can be found on the
internet using the school’s own computer. The school districts own
filters allow these images to be viewed and its just not an isolated
incident that something got past the filters, but it happened on a
regular basis.

Another issue that needs to be addressed with regard to censorship is
context.

Context is a powerful concept in art, especially in art education in
public schools. I explain to my students that I want them to be
creative, but they need to keep in mind the venue that we function in,
that being that they are minors in a public school subject to the
scrutiny of school policy and parental control. I go on to say that
hate crimes are a felony. I let them know that I don’t make all the
rules, but I do play by them. I ask them to use good judgment and
discretion when working on projects. Ironically what might be
inappropriate for students in high school, might be appropriate the
following year when they are in college. Can you imagine a figure
study drawing class in high school using nude models like the do in
college? Students are told, that if they need to ask me, if something
is over the line than it probably is, but they should come to ask.
Students are always encouraged to ask questions.

By taking the time to explain my philosophies and practices of
censorship in the classroom students appreciate being treated with a
high degree of respect and acknowledgment for their maturity and
judgment. They have a clear understanding of censorship. I advocate
self-censorship. In most cases this works well. In a few cases I have
to express my opinion and in very few exceptions I have to act,
becoming the censor. I am glad to say that rarely happens, which is a
testimony to my students.

Richard Gross
Pinole Valley HS

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