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Lesson Plans

Re: censorship

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Maggie White (mwhite)
Sun, 02 Nov 1997 15:16:08 -0800

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Lishughes wrote:
> I would
> appreciate any responses related to censorship issues in your school at any
> level. Do you have a policy or "rules" for visual images that may or may not
> be expressed in your class? How do you know the latest "gang" related
> symbols and if students are expressing these to get a response from you or
> your peers? How do you know satenism is behind their visual thinking, if
> they tell you it is only a dirt bike symbol?

Hi, Lisa,

It's taken me a while to respond because I was trying to find any notes taken from a
really good session on censorship at the NAEA convention a few years ago. Couldn't find
the notes--if indeed I had taken any--but I do remember the speaker talking about
specific situations in his own room, and showing examples of some very disturbing work.
He set up a private table in a corner of his room just for students who really needed to
express ideas many of us would consider "improper" for whatever reason. The rule was,
they could draw these images, but they could not show them to their friends nor take
them from the classroom. They were kept in a private folder in a locked file cabinet.

I feel kind of the same way--these students are obviously saying something non-verbally
about themselves. At the start of each semester, I explain to my classes that when I
see marijuana leaves or gang grafitti, I have to assume that the student is involved in
some way and I will report it to a counselor. Whether the interest is an active or
passive one, it's apparent that the subject has some importance to the student.

I also teach an art history class one semester each year (using Brommer's _Discovering
Art History_) which has nudity in it and also in the slides. I always explain to the
students the first day about _why_ there is nudity in art and that there is nothing in
the book or slides they haven't already seen in movies, magazines, or maybe even "real
life" (which elicits a laugh); I also tell them that if they believe it will bother
them, they need to let me know that day so they can change classes. They have an
assignment that first day which familiarizes them with the book, so they can see for
themselves what's there. In all this time I've never had anyone bail out nor a parent
complain; unfortunately, we don't get the kind of parental involvement we'd like, so it
could be the parents are unaware. I've always expected the boys to at least giggle the
first time a nude appears on the screen, but it's never happened. I think this
matter-of-fact explanation lets them know I believe they're mature enough to handle the

Occasionally during a ceramics unit I get what appears to be a pipe, or a very frankly
made pipe (we're on a reservation, and they'll try to claim "It's my culture!"). I used
to destroy them, but they're often so beautifully crafted it seems a shame. If I
comment on its similarity to a pipe, they'll often show their hand by acting extra
indignant while denying it's a pipe; in those cases, the "kiln gods" manage to plug the
tube with a bit of clay or glaze ;)

Hope this is the kind of info you were needing.

Maggie**remove x in address to reply

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