A N. Utah school district teaches kids art is evil and the human body is shameful

Sunday , December 31, 2017 - 4:30 AM4 comments

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Question: Which of the following artworks qualify as pornography simply because they portray nude figures?

  1. Michelangelo’s David.
  2. Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.”
  3. Matisse’s “Dance.”
  4. Rodin’s The Thinker.
  5. Manet’s “The Luncheon on the Grass.”
  6. None of the above.

If you selected any answer but No. 6, you probably send your children to Lincoln Elementary in Hyrum.

Because after teacher Mateo Rueda accidentally passed out art cards from the school library that included two nudes, someone accused him of showing his students pornography and the Cache County School District fired him.

  • RELATED: “Utah teacher fired after students see nudity in art”

The district needs to reinstate Rueda, immediately. Because administrators aren’t protecting students, as they might believe; they’re teaching them art is evil.

Rueda teaches art. During a Dec. 4 lesson, he handed out postcards depicting works of art. One of the cards contained Amedeo Modigliani’s “Iris Tree,” another Francois Boucher's "L'Odalisque Brune." They’re both nudes.

When he realized the paintings made his sixth-graders uncomfortable, Rueda took them back.

“This is not material at all that I would use. I had no idea,” Rueda told a reporter for the Herald Journal.

Sheriff’s deputies visited Lincoln a dew days later to investigate reports Rueda had shown his students pornography. When they arrived, they found Principal Jeni Buist busily shredding cards from the library art collection containing nudity.

Apparently, someone with the school district instructed her to destroy the images.

Deputies salvaged some of the cards and showed them to prosecutors, who concluded they weren’t pornographic.

Maybe the county attorney’s office should supervise the art curriculum in the Cache County School District. At least prosecutors understand the difference between art and pornography.

Granted, Rueda needed to exercise more care in developing and exercising his lesson plan. Some of his students did not possess the maturity to understand the history of nude figures in Western art. If he didn’t know what was on the cards, that was Rueda’s fault.

But by firing Rueda and shredding reproductions of classic art, Buist and the school district only reinforce the mistaken belief that nudity is a form of pornography. They’re teaching students art is immoral and the human body is dirty and shameful.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When artists like Matisse, Rodin, Manet and Modigliani create nude figures, they explore what it means to be alive. Their works help us understand our shared humanity.

Not at Lincoln Elementary School in Hyrum, however. Not in the Cache County School District.

There, if a painting depicts nudity, it’s automatically pornography and must be destroyed before the police find it. That’s how you deal with controversies, kids — by shredding great works of art.

Rueda didn’t distribute pornography, as reports alleged. He deserves his job back, with the clear expectation he’ll review materials before using them in class.

And administrators in the Cache County School District need to begin defending art, not acting as censors on behalf of those who misunderstand and fear it.

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