Nudity is not the problem

So, an article in People Magazine was brought to my attention, yesterday. Before I describe it, I have to ask – do you find Michelangelo’s “David” offensive?

What about Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”?
Birth of Venus
Would you shield your children’s eyes from these and other, similar works of art?

In Dallas, Texas, a teacher was let go for taking her children to an art museum. (NY Times article, as I can’t find an online version from People.) Sydney McGee has taught for 28 years – she teaches art – and she was fired for taking fifth graders to an art museum.

Raise your hand if you went to an art museum in the fifth grade (or anytime in school). *raises own hand* Were you traumatized, shocked, or otherwise harmed by what you saw? Apparently, one of the students in this class was, and his or her parents complained to the principal, who then fired the teacher. What piece of artwork is responsible for the no doubt lasting damage on this poor, innocent soul? It wasn’t mentioned – at least not in this article. Why? Perhaps it’s because People Magazine isn’t the best source for meaningful news and they neglected to research that far into it.

But, perhaps it was because it could have been any number of pieces of art – because art sometimes contains – gasp – nudity.

As a future teacher I am well aware that there are fine lines between appropriate and inappropriate, but I firmly believe that we have become entirely too prudish about nudity.

There, I said it. Nudity is not the problem, we are.

I could go on and on about the sexualization of our culture – the abundance of sex in television and movies, clothes marketed for children that are modeled after adult lingerie, toys popular among little girls that look like they belong in an adult-only shop, etc. And those things are problems, I agree. But we are extending our censorship too far when we start banning works of art that expose the human form.

Last I checked, children have bodies. And as far as I know, they are at least aware of what their own bodies look like. And, of course, fifth graders are starting to get interested in what the other half has – all the more reason to show them.

What? Show kids nudity? Has she gone crazy??

Possibly, but think about the last time you were curious about something… if you went looking for the information you wanted and one source adamantly refused to give it to you, would you give up? No! You would keep searching until you found satisfaction. Would you rather these kids see nudity in an art museum, or in their friend’s brother’s stash of magazines?

And that’s not even what this teacher was trying to do – she was just trying to teach art. It’s not even stated that the art she was pointing out contained any nudity, just that the museum (The Dallas Museum of Art, by the way) had artwork on display that contained nudity that some of the children might have seen.

This is ridiculous. Right now, I can only imagine that field trips are being cancelled all over the country, art museums are being asked to cover certain questionable pieces of art, and permission forms are being amended to cover the school in the event a student sees something controversial.

What is happening to us?

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