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Lesson Plans

Re: Today in Art Class....religion

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Maggie White (mwhite)
Sat, 16 Oct 1999 07:14:54 -0700

"L.P. Skeen" wrote:
> Well, today was a real winner. 3rd grade class is starting a unit on
> American art, including Native American. Plan is to make Kachina dolls
> and totem poles from toilet paper rolls, right? So I've got my slide
> projecter going and am ATTEMPTING to explain how Native American
> religion holds that living things have spirits, and the use of Kachina
> dolls in praying for rain, crops, etc. when the little squirts start
> evangelizing on me about how "they", meaning the Native Americans are
> WRONG!!!!!!!! and they're "going downstairs where the dryer is and never
> coming back" (the words of one of them - they're afraid to say the word
> 'hell'.). One of 'em even got up and jumped around, yelling about how
> JEEEEEZUS had reached WAY down to pick him UP! and save his soul, etc.
> etc. You would have thought you were listening to Jesse Jackson (with a
> rat-tail), and I'm not kidding.
> Whaddya DO with this kind of thing? Can't just say, "Native Americans
> make these dolls 'cuz they're purty...."

AARGHHHHH! This kind of stuff drives me up a tree.

Lisa, I live on a reservation in AZ. Many students hold devout
Christian beliefs, while at the same time they take part in
traditional Apache ceremonies. Like many indigenous peoples that
were brainwashed by the missionaries, they have incorporated some
traditional aspects into their Christian ceremonies, and vice
versa. There are also a number of "purists" who consider
themselves either traditional or Christian.

I think my students would be pretty incensed at the attitudes of
your students (which are obviously a reflection of their parents'
attitude). And you can tell them I said that! When confronted
with that sort of religious snobbery myself, I try to explain
that much of the art produced over the millenia reflected the
beliefs of the cultures that produced it, and we should respect
that, just as they would expect respect for their own beliefs.
If anyone gets really adamant--very rare here, admittedly--I
point out that in the scheme of world history, Christianity is a
relative newcomer on the scene, and a minority religion at that.
There are more people who follow other beliefs than in all the
Christian religions put together. (Okay, I'm a real in-your-face
kind of person. Probably not an argument you could make with
third graders.)

I love the moment of (shocked) silence after I've been waxing
rapturously over Masaccio's frescoes or van Eyck's
_Annunciation_, and then mention casually that I'm not a
Christian. It points out to them that you can still appreciate
another's culture without being a member of that culture.

Good luck with this one. This is why I fled NC 22 years ago.