I trash two to five "art contest" flyers each month but when there is
something I can use to futher my curriculum goals (such as teaching lettering or
graphic design) I may use a contest as the vehicle for the lesson and let them
know they have a choice about entering (and that parental permission is
required). In other words they have to create the design for the class assignment,
they don't have to enter the contest.
Since many if not most professional artists compete for recognition in
order to sell their work or earn commissions, I think this is entirely
legitimate. Using contest judging criteria can provide a way to analyze and discuss
art. Even my first grade students can understand that one picture might look
"best" because it is neat and colorful, but others may be good for other reasons
and the "winner" is the one that best fits the judging requirements.
I have found to my surprise that the younger students love having class
contests of all sorts. This may not quite fit the NAEA guidelines, but we have
fun when we do it and hey, not everyone makes the football team or the
cheerleader squad either.