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Traditional Values

Sydney McGee is an art teacher at Wilma Fisher Elementary School in the northern Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas. She has 28 years of classroom experience and has consistently gotten good performance reviews. Since this Spring, she has been repeatedly harassed by administration pencil-pushers. This September, she was suspended with pay by the school board and she’ll be fired at the end of the school year.

Why? Because last April McGee had the temerity to try to educate her ten-year-old students by taking them on an approved field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art, on a tour accompanied by four other teachers, twelve parents, and a museum docent along with them. The next day McGee was hauled into the principal’s office and dressed down. Turns out that one of the kids’ parents was outraged to learn that during the tour his or her kid had been exposed to … to glimpses of these:

Nude figure of a young man from a funerary relief: Greek, Attic (c. 330 BCE) A nude sculpture entitled “Flora”, by Aristide Maillol (1911) A nude sculpture entitled “The Shade”, by Auguste Rodin (1880)

The principal had approved the field trip ahead of time, but now, at Mr. or Mrs. Grundy’s behest, she was shocked! shocked! to learn that there are sometimes nudes in an art museum. Who could possibly have imagined that it was acceptable for ten-year-olds to be exposed to artistic nudes? They might learn that men and women are sometimes naked! In any case, about a month later the assistant principal and principal subjected McGee to an unusual evaluation process, gave her poor marks, and stuck her on a professional growth plan that allowed the administration to issue eight pages of arbitrary directives her for curriculum and lesson planning. After she contacted an attorney and the teacher’s union, the administration retaliated by inventing–oh, sorry, remembering–a heretofore unmentioned and completely undocumented history of verbal reprimands. The process of retaliation finally led to Ms. McGee’s suspension late in September. The school board suggests that her contract will not be renewed.

Well. Take that, Renaissance! It may have trashed an experienced art teacher’s career, but traditional values are on the march, by jingo, and Mr. and Mrs. Grundy can rest better tonight knowing that their children will once again be kept safe from exposure to their own artistic heritage.

(I heard about this from Rebecca Traister @ Broadsheet 2006-10-03. More from The New York Times 2006-09-30, Texas Ed 2006-08-25, Texas Ed 2006-09-26, and the Dallas Morning News 2006-08-24.)

Further reading:

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