Puritanism Run Amock

Award-winning art teacher takes her class on a trip to Dallas Museum of Art. Principal not only approves the trip but encourages the teacher to do it. Parents all sign permission slips for the kids to go. The kids see a statue of a nude person at the museum. Award-winning teacher gets fired. Sometimes the utter stupidity of much of the population of this country makes me want to scream. It reminds me of my high school, where the best teacher I had - and there was no close second, he was the only really good teacher at the school - was the French teacher. And one of the things he adamantly believed was that teaching French was about more than conjugating verbs; he didn't just teach the language, he taught the history, the literature, the culture, the art, the food....and the wine. And that's where the trouble began. He would do a section on wine, its importance in French culture, the different wine growing regions of France and the different types of wine produced. That was enough to set the simple-minded parents in the area into a minor uproar and demand that he be fired. He was not, thank goodness. But whenever I hear someone blathering on about how we need more parental control of public schools, this is what I think of.

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That is a real shame. A dedicated teacher trying to show some young minds the world of art is now terminated because some repressed individual is horrified by the mere sight of a nude human.

Your correct Ed the stupidity and cowardice of some in our nation is epic.

Ooh, that makes me mad. I wish I could say I was surprised, though. Back when I was in junior high, I had a friend whose mother didn't want to let her go on a class trip to Florida because there would be boys on the trip staying in the same hotel. (It probably wouldn't be surprising to learn that this woman was my Sunday School teacher at a church so conservative that my mother ended her association with it at around this time and went looking for one with a more liberal view on things.)

Personally I would've been more worried about the corrupting influence of Disney World. I mean "It's a Small World" alone has been known to scar people for life.

More seriously, with stories like these it's a wonder anyone becomes a schoolteacher.

By Genevieve Williams (not verified) on 30 Sep 2006 #permalink

Sad. This is another example of people trying to impose their very narrow views on society as a whole so that they don't need to take responsibility for themselves. The parent who complained apparently signed a permission slip, but doesn't want to take responsibility for having checked out the museum beforehand. This school is allowing the one parent to dictate the education of everyone else's children. We've been looking into possible ways to homeschool my grandchildren for exactly this reason.

When my own children were in elementary school, I often took them out of class to spend the day at a museum or festival or to visit an historic site. As my daughter routinely finished her entire day's assignments by 8:30 in the mornings and my son constantly interrupted the lessons with factual questions the teachers couldn't answer, the teachers were glad to see them go. But now the state has a law that says that a student, no matter how good the grades, doesn't pass if a certain small number of classes are missed. So the better students are trapped in a classroom where the teacher spends the day on repetitions of material those children learned long ago. More and more, homeschooling looks like the only way to assure my grandchildren a decent education.

With the sterling example set by former Attorney General, John Asscroft's $8K cover-up of the Islamofascist, naked breast of the Spirit of Justice statue, it's not surprising that the fundies play monkey see, monkey do. If I were the teacher involved, I'd sue the holy hell out of the district and maybe teach them not to cave to ignorant parents.

During my tenure as an editor/publisher of science textbooks, my boss hired an ex-junior high principal as a fellow editor. He couldn't write his way out of a paper bag or edit a manuscript for grade one, but his signal failure (at least in my eyes) lay elsewhere. During the time we worked together the local papers reported a case where a teacher at a school was accused by a student of molesting her (or maybe it was just flirting--I don't remember now). Well this ex-principal said he'd fire the teacher on the spot. I questioned him about principles and the right to a fair hearing. He was of the opinion that any one meriting an accusation merited firing. As it turned out much later, the teacher was exonerated and the student was found to be emotionally unstable. The ex-principal had nothing to say. But from other extended conversations with the man, he was of the opinion that the most important goal for a principal to achieve was to keep the school quiet and without controversy. A school with quiet classrooms, no students speaking out, and none in the halls was good school. Learning was decidedly secondary. Over the years as a text book editor/publisher I visited hundreds of schools from coast to coast. From those visits I met many principals who followed the same principal; most were depressing and the students achieved at well below par. It was, and still is, depressing. On the other hand I visited many noisy, clamorous schools full of excited students and teachers where the students excelled academically. They were fun to visit.

Don't know about Dallas, but when I was in 5th grade, that's when sex ed began. Just the basics, like when people are naked, you can see their privates.

And there's that old saying ... don't believe everything you hear in the press. She started having problems with the principal over a year ago, and was written up several times because of her teaching shortcomings, including a poor face-to-face review with her supierors, before this museum visit. This trip was no doubt used as an excuse to axe her, but let's not go overboard, blaming the entire public school system. She had only taught in that district for 6 years, and the last 2 were downhill. If you are going to write an expose, Ed, let's be sure to print the whole story. Otherwise, you've gone from being a journalist to being a religionist (I like that word).

Howard, do you have a URL with more information on this story? I'd like to know more about the previous conflicts if there is documentation somewhere.

This is only tangental, but the prudery reminds of a self-inflicted wound I once observed. One of my AP European History students would not look at the reproduction on our book of the Delcroix painting "Liberty Leading the People" because the woman was "exposed." Unfortunately for him, it later turned up on the AP exam. For what it is worth, and connecting to another topic that has come up here before, he went to the Air Force Academy and felt right at home.

Howard may be onto something. It does seem a little rash to get rid of a teacher over the irrational complaint of one parent. There probably is more to this than just prudish stupidity. I'm reminded of another story of a middle school science teacher who was forced to resign after having to physically handle an out of control student. The back story was that this teacher taught evolution and the principal didn't approve of evolution. The episode gave the principal an excuse to remove this teacher. No suprise to me that this happened in Texas. Texans are some of the stupidist people on the planet. I should know I live there.

These kids are luckey they didn't go to the Louvre. That place is crawling with nekkid statues!

By Jason Spaceman (not verified) on 30 Sep 2006 #permalink

I'm just waiting for the Decent Upstanding Christian Folk to march into every museum, library and public building and destroy everything that even hints that God-fearing people have icky-bits. Adam and Eve didn't have icky-bits, until after the Fall (I bet AFDave from AtBC can find the reference), and statues showing humans in their artistic greater glory shouldn't have them either. As Hedwig describes it, just a "Barbie-Doll crotch" will do fine.

RE Bing's prediction: Does the name Savonarola ring a bell?

Yes GP,
Here's the excerpt from the paper that sat in on the proceedings, which includes a quote from the school district. The link is:
Do a search on SYDNEY MCGEE TEACHER to see many more. She was railroaded, but the culprits are the school admins. One parent didn't bring her down ... the sup mixing the museum trip with the teachers firing is beyond incompetence.

I have a terrible, terrible secret to tell these people.

Their kids see themselves naked in the shower and getting dressed every damn day. Shocking, I know. Clearly the next step in the Quest against Sin and Debauchery is to ban basic hygeine.

Uh limes, that's only a problem if they look at themselves and enjoy it. If they are filled with disgust and shame it's perfectly fine. Maybe even good, since that is what every human should feel when confronted with the stark and um... naked... truth of nakedness.

But I suppose- why risk it when the consequences are so grave? It would surely spell out the end of civilization. All that naked art? The people who made that art are just savages. Perverted, bestial savages.

I have a terrible, terrible secret to tell these people.

Their kids see themselves naked in the shower and getting dressed every damn day. Shocking, I know. Clearly the next step in the Quest against Sin and Debauchery is to ban basic hygeine.
I read somewhere that the Puritans did ban bathing more than once a month for that very reason.

Genevieve Williams wrote:

Personally I would've been more worried about the corrupting influence of Disney World. I mean "It's a Small World" alone has been known to scar people for life.
When I was 12 years old I was on the "It's a Small World" ride and it broke down. I was stuck at the half-way point of the ride for over an hour. I turned out gay! Disney claims there is no connection, but many years later they started have Gay Days at Disney. My guess is it is to make up for all us poor gays that became that way by getting stuck in the Small World ride.

They were clever at my church; we went on a field trip to Forest Lawn to look at the statues where they had the decency to put fig leaves on all the reproductions! I thought it was a rip-off.

It must be the Protestants that are so prude because I went to the Vatican years later where the art has "icky parts" hangin' out everywhere!

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts here in Richmond offers various summer enrichment courses for kids. When our two were younger, we sent them to some of these for a few summers.

On the second day of one of these classes, they took the kids into the galleries. That afternoon they were to draw something inspired by what they saw in the museum.

I went to pick up my kids and was hanging out while they were getting ready and this one little girl had drawn this fascinating figure - human body with rabbit head. The human body part was unclothed. The girl's mother comes in and is all, "Show me what you did today!"

And the little girl holds up her art and proudly proclaims, "It's a rabbit-man...in the NUUUUUUUUDE!" Hilarious. I start cracking up, the mother starts cracking up.

Thankfully, everyone involved had brains and open minds and love of art...thekeez