At 03:05 PM 6/1/97 -0700, henry wrote:
>In the short run, the easiest answer has always been to suppress everything
>associated with a perceived "evil".
>Centuries of art have been about symbolism, personal and group identity.
>It is something the art teacher should know something about. It is a
>question that a class can explore. As I said, middle school and up it is
>something that many of the students will be exploring on their own or in
>class if the opportunity is offered.
>We could deal with symbols as something to fear and censor. We could also
>become proactive and deal with symbols as a really interesting and maybe
>even vital issue. I don't know what the answer is, but these are a few of
>the things I have been thinking about in this regard over the past year
I would like to share a few thoughts on the subject of gangs and tagging.
The primary reason we do not tolerate any kind of gang or drug images on our
campus is because we have major gang problems in the community and it is a
matter of survival for us to never tolerate the outward or visible threat
to our school environment that the images present. The minute any marks or
images show up on buildings, books or on kids, we paint over it, clean it
off, cover it up, take it away and inform our campus security. The kids
seldom try to tag our school these days because they know from experience
that it will be quite risky for them and their efforts will be wasted within
a matter of minutes or, at most, a few hours. The power of the symbol is
lost without its intended effect.
It is kind of like training a garter snake not to bite you. As kids we
learned that if we made sure that the critters were never able to get their
teeth into anything that they tried to bit, they would eventually stop
trying. We would torment the poor things until they got very tired and
frustrated. At that point we had as much of a pet that a snake could ever
Unfortunately, in the community around some of the schools in our district,
there is a problem with the gangsters. Like stray dogs at the hydrant, they
try to mark their territory, brag and bluff their neighbors with the tags.
When the images stay for any length of time, other gangs see it as an
invitation to contribute and toy with the initial contributors. The problem
spins out of control and becomes yet another symptom of the decay of the
family, loss of morality and the erosion of the economy in the area of the
community where it is found. For the lost, little gangster minds, the
images are symbols for identity, speaking of their homeboys and the family
which will soon enslave them in a life of crime. They mark their territory,
express their foolish pride, their reckless courage and their threats.
To others in the community, the combined activity of tagging makes for a
general symbol of community failure and wasted human resources.