Original. Student reported. Your daily dose of Right-minded news and commentary from across the nation
Art teacher canned for assignment containing classical nude paintings

Our 2017 year-end fundraising campaign runs through Dec. 31, so please consider a tax-deductible donation of any amount to help us continue to publish the best campus news in the nation. Thanks for your support!

A Utah elementary school art teacher was fired after students “became uncomfortable” viewing postcards of classical paintings — some of which contained nudes.

Earlier this month, Lincoln Elementary School’s Mateo Rueda had his fifth and sixth graders work on a “color study exercise” using sets of postcards purchased by the school district three years prior.

According to Fox-13, the cards “depicted various famous paintings,” including Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

Rueda was aware that some of the cards contained images of nude women (some “less covered than others”), and says he was surprised they were in there. He went through about 800 of the cards and removed those he believed would be inappropriate for his students.

Apparently, he didn’t remove enough:

[…] when the students came to class, ‘Mr. Mateo,’ as the students call him, gave a disclaimer before starting the project.

“Mr. Mateo explained to us that there might be some pictures that we’ll find uncomfortable,” said 10-year-old 5th grader Bella Jensen.

She said she enjoyed working on the color project, and noticed a few cards that made her and her friends giggle.

“There were some pictures that were a little weird, and most kids were laughing,” she said.

But some kids seemed upset at what they saw, she said, and brought the cards to Mr. Mateo.

“Children were expressing their discomfort and then explaining that they felt it was inappropriate,” Rueda said.

He said he tried to assess the class as a whole, and explain the paintings in a way where the children wouldn’t feel the images were wrong—but a piece of art.

“Images were part of history, they are icons,” he said.

He went on to say that he encouraged his students to talk to their parents about the paintings. Rueda said he found out parents had complained to the school, and that someone called police.

The school sent him a termination letter December 8, he said, giving him the ultimatum of either resigning or being terminated under a set of conditions.

The Cache County Sheriff’s Office talked with the parent who contacted the police, as well as the Lincoln’s principal. Given that the postcards were school property and not pornography, it declined to file charges and closed the case.

Rueda said he “hopes he can appeal the termination decision.”

Read the full article.

MORE: Teacher fired for not teaching non-Pledge of Allegiance-reciting student

MORE: Teacher-blogger cannot sue on free speech grounds, remains fired

IMAGE: Shutterstock.com

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Add to the Discussion

  • John

    Kids who are uncomfortable with classical art, and who think it is inappropriate, clearly have parents who are repressing them instead of educating them. We don’t need to fire good teachers over bad parents. We need to educate parents.

    • BossySnowAngel

      The key to all education is to teach material that is appropriate for the students. If you are teaching concepts of volume and line, there are countless other ways to introduce those concepts to a third grade class without using Roman copies of classical Greek nudes. Now if you were discussing drawing the human body and proportion, using Vitruvian Man would be useful, but generally speaking drawing full figures isn’t something children are able to accomplish until they approach middle school. At that point perhaps Greek nudes would be appropriate-but so would the stele of Hegoso or Prima Porta or even American Gothic. A truly innovative art teacher can find many sources to help explain. Maybe we should stop having teachers rely on a curriculum that is not age appropriate.

      • John

        I am a teacher. A good one. Some of what you say has truth in it, but the key to all education is NOT appropriateness, whatever that even means. The key to LEARNING is curiosity, the innate desire we are all born with to grow our understanding of our experience. A good teacher knows how to tap into the natural hunger and thirst that students possess. Children play because that is how they learn. Real learning is always fun, always exciting, always satisfying, always begins with the learner, not a teacher. A gifted teacher does not rely on a curriculum at all. A gifted teacher designs a curriculum in concert with students. And a big part of unlocking and tapping into a child’s inner wonder and curiosity also requires one to understand that most if not all students have been harmed by authoritarian adults who have done much to dampen the natural spark of curiosity through coercion.

        • BossySnowAngel

          Sorry, but age appropriateness absolutely comes into play. You wouldn’t let a first grader mess around with lasers. It wouldn’t be appropriate no matter how advanced the child’s understanding. I teach a wide range of art from around the world, much of it very provocative. There is a time and place for nudes in art, but they must be taught in context. If you’re only seeing kids once a week for 45 minutes, I’m not sure that contextural understanding can be achieved. There’s plenty of art in our world without having to risk having art banned by exposing nudity to children who aren’t ready for it.

          • John

            Of course, the age of a child determines the material. But nudity is not age-related. We are born nude. Attitudes about the body, and how covered or uncovered it is, are far more related to culture than to age. Children who are not ready for it are unready not because they are too young for nudity, but because their parents instilled an unnatural anxiety in them. I find that unhealthy and I do not think it morally acceptable to coddle unhealthy parenting.

          • BossySnowAngel

            But, you have to consider the community standards. Like it or not nudity is not commonly acceptable material for most young children. You can argue this from an adult perspective, but you cannot ignore the child’s point of view which is going to impact how parents respond.

  • cc

    Now we have snowflakes being aggrieved by anything they see or feel, thanks for nothing educators – you’ve made the millennial and post-millenniial kids into possibly the most incapable generation ever to walk this planet.

    • TxMedRgr

      Let’s be fair, after the greatest generation came the baby boomers; perhaps the worst generation and the parents and grandparents of the snowflakes.. And yes, I am a baby boomer.

      • BossySnowAngel

        As a Boomer and a teacher I can assure you that the current crop of parents are the most egotistical and arrogant of the lot. They substitute gadgets for genuine interest and frequently indulge in randomly shallow instances of complaints mainly just to have their children get easier tests. Rail if you want against Boomers, they built much of the infrastructure that Millennials take for granted. There would be little in the way of technical infrastructure and access if not for the work of Boomers who are now on the cusp of retiring with very few having the vision or innovation to make similar achievements.

        • RonCade

          I’m Boomer. It is not correct to lump all Boomers as being the same nor all of the Greatest Generation as being the same. All generations have The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, if you will. They each have the nice, the corrupted, the non-corrupted, the saints and the ungodly.

  • martqbdlve

    How many photographs and paints are available in the art world? He could not one set without nudity?
    Just be glad he was not a progressive,he would have used the mapplethorpe collection.

    • jefferys50

      Does it physically hurt being so stupid?

  • Tatiana Covington

    I was so into Greece and Rome when I was 8 or so, couldn’t get enough of books like Plutarch’s Lives.

  • BossySnowAngel

    I teach high school art. In fact I teach AP Art History, the scope of which has several nudes determined by the AP board to be significant. I preface the class with a signature sheet explaining that the nudes included are part of a national curriculum and required for participation in the course. As for showing nudes to elementary students, I would be wary of the content. While nudity is common in a variety of cultures it is not the norm in this culture. As a result when discussing something like Botticelli’s Venus or other such works, you have to include the concept of nudity = innocence or in the case of ancient Greece the idea that a sound body and sound mind were part of a balance individual. Frankly I’m not sure someone who uses nudity with elementary age students has a grasp on their developmental levels. My own kids were exposed to classical art early on-that is not true of many students and I think we need to show respect for families who choose not to introduce nudity. There are many ways to demonstrate a concept and any art teacher should be well enough versed in a variety of artists and artworks to find alternatives that will suit the ages of the students.

  • RonCade

    Why images of naked people seem so necessary to the art world tells me something about the people in the art world. Why is it we wear clothing? Uhhhhh? I’m still working on that one. Try teaching Dick and Jane about right and wrong then inject some pictures of naked people and then try teaching them its acceptable. Talk about confusion. This concludes with situation ethics being the rule and there really can’t be such a thing as right and wrong. By the time Little Sally gets to the fifth grade, anything goes for her. Grandma said it best: You may not be what you think you are Billy, but what you think, you are. If you dare, try teaching The Book of Proverbs to the children but only when they get old enough for sound reasoning. Cheers!

  • Busy Bea

    Whether or not the postcards shown were all age-appropriate, isn’t termination as a first resort a bit of a knee-jerk reaction? The postcards were purchased by the school district, not some pornography the teacher decided to bring to the classroom; he removed the postcards he thought would be problematic; he was open to discussing students’ concerns. Yes, there might be better ways to teach this art lesson, and the sensibilities of individual students and their families should be respected. However, unless this teacher has a record of disciplinary actions not mentioned in the article, termination is an extreme measure.

  • Medina-Merino

    Is it any wonder that a Mormon women have an inordinately high suicide rate when compared to other ethnic groups of women? And is it a surprise that Mormon men have the highest per capita consumption of pornography when compared to other ethnic groups of men?