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Art Teacher Suspended for Suggesting Nudes
March 9, 2006 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Mention nude art, get suspended. 25-year veteran art teacher Pete Panse recommended several ways for his ninth grade advanced art students to improve their skills, one of which included nude life figure drawing sessions at other art schools. For this, the Middletown, NY School District Board of Education suspended him, pending hearings in which he may be fired. They'll be after our bathroom mirrors next. [via DC Art News]
posted by brownpau (78 comments total)

 
Oh, there's also a petition.
posted by brownpau at 7:05 AM on March 9, 2006


They'll be after our bathroom mirrors next.

Funny, when you go to Europe naked children are running around everywhere. Maybe that's why the Puritans set sail.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 7:07 AM on March 9, 2006


Serves him right, the sexual deviant. I'm glad someone is thinking of the children.
posted by psmealey at 7:09 AM on March 9, 2006


What initiated this whole case was one complaint, from a father who (presumably on religious/moral grounds) was opposed to his daughter being involved in any extracurricular class in which nude males were the subject.

Well, at least it wasn't homophobia, it was just plain old American nude-ophobia. For whatever reason, Americans in broad numbers are extremely uptight about female nudity (outside of strip clubs, that is) and especially uptight about male nudity. This "veteran" should have known better than to set something up like this himself.
posted by three blind mice at 7:09 AM on March 9, 2006


As Lewis Black said "A child will never be as damaged by seeing a tit as they will be by adults going insane over a child having seen a tit."
posted by illovich at 7:11 AM on March 9, 2006


He didn't set anything up himself. He only suggested it.
posted by AstroGuy at 7:12 AM on March 9, 2006


Specifically, Mr. Panse was charged with making "comments that students could construe as being of a sexual or personal nature...or using [his] position as a teacher to put students into any situation reasonably likely to make them feel uncomfortable because of the injection of sexuality into...the substance of [his] comments."

This seems like quite a stretch to use this clause to nail this guy for simply suggesting to his students they seek out additional inspiration; hardly sex talk. Although you don't need to draw nudes to become proficient as an artist, it's an accepted part of the 'normal' teaching process in fine art.

The mere mention of the "possibility" of a "future" course, and discussions in the "theoretical" are what the school board regards as a fireable offense in this case.

What a load of shit. Why don't they just say, the mere possibility of a theoretical future lawsuit is enough to can a guy for doing what you hired him to do - teach art.
posted by j.p. Hung at 7:13 AM on March 9, 2006


I remember when I was in sixth grade, and we were all going to go on our first field trip to the Art Museum. We were really excited. Our teacher, a woman brimming with energy and enthusiasm, got right in our faces before the trip, in an effort to pre-empt the inevitable juvenile behavior that comes when pubescent kids see Renaissance paintings: "You know what you're going to see at the museum? NAKED PEOPLE!" Uproarious laughter from us while she picked up an art book. "C'mon up here, I'll show you a naked person right now!" She went on, in the midst of our laughter, to remind us that even though we were gonna be surrounded by pictures of naked people, we should act like human beings and not make our school look bad by pointing and snickering and making rude jokes.

This was a parochial school, by the way. We basically behaved ourselves once we got to the museum. Teacher didn't get in any kind of trouble for "showing us the naked people."
posted by Gator at 7:17 AM on March 9, 2006


Perhaps this is just a case of disagreement over the morality of nudity per se, perhaps animated by religious dogma (there is a Reverend who serves as a board member). If so then it is a case of proponents of one point of view (that nudity is itself evil) trying to shut up those with the opposite view.

Of course nudity is evil! If God wanted us to run around naked he would not have invented clothing.

Clearly this teacher is imagining that people are naked under their clothes and that must stop now. I am profoundly greatful the teacher did not propose that one of female studants whip out a tit so that everyone could "study it." Dirty pervert.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:17 AM on March 9, 2006


To paraphrase Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that one deranged, idiotic citizen can change the school system. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

That link is a remarkably clear explanation of the situation, including background details like "The district has recently gone through a nasty sex scandal in which the past superintendent had been molesting a male student for some time and the scandal had resulted in a prison sentence for the superintendent and the replacement of several board members, so perhaps this is just a case of hypersensitivity to anything even remotely tinged with anything remotely sexual."

It basically comes down to, they say, "This is a clear-cut case of an excellent teacher being attacked for nothing more than telling his students the facts about what they need to do to get into a top art school and recommending how they can get the proper training."
posted by LeLiLo at 7:25 AM on March 9, 2006


Whatever. This guy was probably on his way out already.
posted by wfrgms at 7:27 AM on March 9, 2006


I remember figure drawing class as being extemely nonsexualized. Sure, there was a naked person in the room, sometimes two, but everyone was working. The funny thing is, I remember people who had never taken figure drawing often would act as if drawing nudes was a REALLY big deal. Its no
posted by R. Mutt at 7:30 AM on March 9, 2006


*not.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:31 AM on March 9, 2006


God wants you to be embarassed by your naked body. That's why he created clothes.
posted by NationalKato at 7:31 AM on March 9, 2006


What initiated this whole case was one complaint, from a father who (presumably on religious/moral grounds) was opposed to his daughter being involved in any extracurricular class in which nude males were the subject.

...

In fact, this particular father has recently been defending Mr. Panse against the attack by the school administration.
posted by brownpau at 7:34 AM on March 9, 2006


I used to work at an art museum in Baltimore; my first job there was booking school tours. In 1996 or 97, Cecil County, Maryland cancelled all their field trips on the grounds that when the kids came into the Renaissance Court they were confronted by a large naked man of marble. The teacher who called told me that this was unacceptable, so unless I could figure out a way to smuggle the students into the museum and make sure that they were not confronted with anything that might worry anyone, than the students from Cecil County would never return to the art museum. I apologized; I suggested ways to talk to kids about nudity in art (Gator's teacher was using an old trick) and I mentioned that fact that art is not supposed to be nonconfrontational - but I got nowhere. In the years I worked there, by the way, no teacher ever complained about the mummy, the saint's relics, or any number of fairly grisly martyred saints which, in a sane world, are a lot more disturbing than a 17th century Italian copy of a Roman copy of a Greek original that at some point or another had his genitals shrunken down to the size of a baby's anyway.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:43 AM on March 9, 2006


I'm about to read the article. Prediciton: it will include some quote from an adminstrator claiming they have a clear policy for cases like this, and it is being followed.
posted by jon_kill at 8:03 AM on March 9, 2006


"Perhaps the acceptance of modern art has reached such a point that the members of this board oppose traditional methods of teaching art on the grounds that they are “old-fashioned” and therefore not necessary."

Um. No.

ARC is a good resource for classically inspired art, but I wish their editors could allow that the world is big enough to contain both their proponents and supporters of modernism.
posted by maryh at 8:11 AM on March 9, 2006


"comments that students could construe as being of a sexual or personal nature...or using [his] position as a teacher to put students into any situation reasonably likely to make them feel uncomfortable because of the injection of sexuality into...the substance of [his] comments."

What's nudity have to do with sex? They're orthogonal.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:11 AM on March 9, 2006


Jesus. Wait until they find out what these kids can access on the Internet. They're gonna freak.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:14 AM on March 9, 2006




Ashcroft Covers Nude Statue at DoJ.
posted by ericb at 8:17 AM on March 9, 2006


I gaurentee that what the teacher said to the students about nude drawing wasn't a fraction as offensive or sexually degrading as the things the students say to each other over the course of the average school day.
posted by nuclear_soup at 8:18 AM on March 9, 2006


Astro - this internet thing you speak of...it has nude people? How do I sign up?
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:18 AM on March 9, 2006


Peter Panse? Is Tinkerbell going to lose her job next?
posted by dr_dank at 8:20 AM on March 9, 2006


What's nudity have to do with sex? They're orthogonal.

Maybe it's just me, Zen, but I like my sex naked. It gives me an orthognal.
posted by three blind mice at 8:20 AM on March 9, 2006


I always wear a bow tie to sex. I just believe in dressing nice for a special occassion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:36 AM on March 9, 2006


So you just carry one around in your wallet, just in case, AZ? I sure hope you replace it frequently.
posted by Gator at 8:41 AM on March 9, 2006


This is just odd - as you'd expect, the students in question had already seen nudes in art as part of the class, and a senior teacher had already considered offering course credits to students who took extra-curricular life drawing classes. It certanly looks like the earlier sex scandal just has this school on a hair-trigger when it comes to anything even remotely concerned with the sex.

How old are 9th-graders, by the way? (I can never remember how that grade system works, despite it being simpler than the one we have here...)
posted by jack_mo at 8:53 AM on March 9, 2006


Likewise, I suppose a Anatomy teacher could be suspended for mentioning nude people.
posted by iamck at 8:56 AM on March 9, 2006


How old are 9th-graders, by the way?

14/15, and they're definitely not having sex!
posted by iamck at 8:57 AM on March 9, 2006


This is just stupid. But, eh, there are some stupid people in school boards, I've heard.

If for some insane reason Panse is actually fired for this, given his remarkable qualifications, I suspect he will have NO problem finding a raft of excellent job offers from top schools around the nation.
posted by darkstar at 9:05 AM on March 9, 2006


Hmmm. The first video on this page ("The Naked Truth," Flash) has a claim towards the end that this teacher, Panse, was accused several years ago of some improper incidents with female students, and was warned at that time against any further controversy. Hmmm.

Also, this article has a blurb about how Panse "didn't involve the parents" in this whole plan to teach a nude figures class of his.

I guess we'll eventually get more details as the story gets more attention.
posted by Gator at 9:11 AM on March 9, 2006


You're usually 14, turning 15, in grade 9, jack_mo.

And this is fucking stupid. The best explanation I ever heard for naked people in paintings came from my niece's grade 3 teacher, when I went along on a field trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario. One of the kids asked why there were all the naked ladies on the walls, and the teacher said "Well, $name-which-I-forget, artists are really interested in seeing how things look, and interesting shapes and things. When you take clothes off people, you really see what they look like."

The kid said "Oh," very thoughtfully, and literally had to be dragged away from examining a nude painting about 15 minutes later. To clarify, he was actually looking at the painting, not the boobies.

But seriously... figure drawing is part of a classical artist's repertoire. It's just a naked body, for fuck's sake. What the fuck is wrong with people?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:11 AM on March 9, 2006


iamck >>> "How old are 9th-graders, by the way?

"14/15, and they're definitely not having sex!"



Maybe you weren't :P
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:12 AM on March 9, 2006


three blind mice : "Maybe it's just me, Zen, but I like my sex naked. It gives me an orthognal."

But you will agree that nudity for sex is a clear case of neither necessary nor sufficient.

Now, this Board, do they really think that, when teaching art, their teachers just ignore the Greeks and then jump directly from middle ages religious paintings to Jackson Pollock?
posted by nkyad at 9:16 AM on March 9, 2006


If art class is a problem, then this HS will NEVER be able to offer AP Anatomy/Physiology.

I had that class and I must say that labeling the external anatomy of both genders by proper latin names was not at all arousing.

At all.
posted by BeerGrin at 9:27 AM on March 9, 2006


/sarcasm
posted by iamck at 9:29 AM on March 9, 2006


Ah, Manet was all over this ... years ago. This painting of Manet's is exactly how I remember art school. The artist Ed Ruscha, and the photographer Jerry McMillen, in this 1967 work: Ed Ruscha says Goodbye to College Joys also get art school about right. Ah, the olde days...
posted by R. Mutt at 9:29 AM on March 9, 2006


This is for the best. If we let young women get the idea that normal bodies look anything like Paris Hilton they might not starve themselves.

/Sarcasam
posted by BeerGrin at 9:33 AM on March 9, 2006


Edit..

If we let thm think that they do not have to look like Paris.
posted by BeerGrin at 9:34 AM on March 9, 2006


But you will agree that nudity for sex is a clear case of neither necessary nor sufficient.

Well not now, nkyad, but when I was 15 nudity without sex was more than sufficient.
posted by three blind mice at 9:36 AM on March 9, 2006


The nonsense of it is; I'm pretty sure the the WB will rile them up more than the Rubinesque women and the flaccid wangs of history.

In fact exposure (heh) to nudity that is not meant to entice might even give some kids a better grounding in realty. (Or get them used to the idea that the average spouse they are likely to have will look more like a Rubin painting.)
posted by BeerGrin at 9:45 AM on March 9, 2006


the 'not involving the parents' thing is a mystery. I don't recall anything extracurricular that didn't require some form of parental approval or involvement - for instance, how were the kids getting to these classes? I have the feeling it was a 'your son/daughter will be taking a college art course' without the 'college courses involving wangs and/or hoo-has'

nothing like a scholarship to rebut school board idiocy though ( i hope ).
posted by arialblack at 9:45 AM on March 9, 2006


One of my buddies is an art major in college. His roommate is a nude model for the art department there (it's a small town school, I know a lot of larger schools only hire models from outside the school). He says he doesn't mind so much- now when the guy passes out naked in bed after drinking all night my friend just thinks, "Well, I just drew you naked for 3 hours today, no big deal, I'll just see your cock again tomorrow."
posted by baphomet at 9:59 AM on March 9, 2006


How old are 9th-graders, by the way?

14/15, and they're definitely not having sex!
posted by iamck at 10:57 AM CST on March 9 [!]


WOW. Somebody is WAY out of touch and has been for a long time.
posted by baphomet at 10:03 AM on March 9, 2006


Oops. Just saw the /sarcasm. Better put that in the initial post next time, I really thought you were that prude. Sorry, your tone of voice isn't transmitting clearly across my screen.

Apologies for the 3 in a row.
posted by baphomet at 10:05 AM on March 9, 2006


Darkstar: "In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards." -- Mark Twain.
posted by adamrice at 10:08 AM on March 9, 2006


Sorry, your tone of voice isn't transmitting clearly across my screen.

Maybe if your eyes are deaf.
posted by ninebelow at 10:09 AM on March 9, 2006


The good news is that the anti-sex (to be sure: the anti-anything-remotely-resembling-or-vaguely-abetting-sex forces) are 100% sure to lose the war. They might as well be fighting breathing.

The bad news is that they're going to fuck up an unimaginable number of lives in the meanwhile.
posted by Skwirl at 10:13 AM on March 9, 2006


We didn't get to paint naked people when I was in 9th grade. We had to paint on paper. Kids today.
posted by jonmc at 10:18 AM on March 9, 2006


Jesus...
I'm gonna get myself a u-boat and a time machine. Then I'm gonna go back and torpedo the fucking Mayflower somewhere around mid-Atlantic.
Fucking puritans.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:27 AM on March 9, 2006


Oh, the depravity!
posted by Drexen at 10:42 AM on March 9, 2006


Tsk, tsk, Drexen. No NSFW tag?
posted by three blind mice at 11:01 AM on March 9, 2006


I took life drawing in art school. The first day was a little jarring but soon it was like drawing a bowl of fruit.

But in all honesty now as a Christian I doubt I would go to a life class. Perhaps I was scarred for life for having to draw the naked guy sitting there playing a guitar.
posted by konolia at 12:49 PM on March 9, 2006


But in all honesty now as a Christian I doubt I would go to a life class. Perhaps I was scarred for life for having to draw the naked guy sitting there playing a guitar.

why? doesn't seem like you minded it before.
Scarred for life? i just don't get this attitude.
posted by Miles Long at 1:27 PM on March 9, 2006


I went to a fairly conservative rural high school in KY, and I remember one of my math teachers mentioning nude live drawing in relation to studying architecture. Nobody got in any trouble.
posted by komilnefopa at 1:28 PM on March 9, 2006


posted by konolia I took life drawing in art school. The first day was a little jarring but soon it was like drawing a bowl of fruit.

Perhaps you should have tried drawing his body instead of just his genitals.

But in all honesty now as a Christian I doubt I would go to a life class. Perhaps I was scarred for life for having to draw the naked guy sitting there playing a guitar.

Are you serious? How do Christians take showers, much less have sex?
posted by fandango_matt at 2:03 PM on March 9, 2006


But in all honesty now as a Christian I doubt I would go to a life class.
WTF does being Christian have to do with not drawing a nude model? I've never gotten the shallow "I'm a Christian=I cannot view nudity" thing. Porn, I can understand (prurient nature, and all that) But we're talking freaking art class here. Newsprint and charcoal. Light and shadow.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:31 PM on March 9, 2006


I've never gotten the shallow "I'm a Christian=I cannot view nudity" thing.

Me neither. That way that Jesus is on the cross, with his tunic hanging kinda open = HOT!
posted by iamck at 2:39 PM on March 9, 2006


konolia; please, tell us you forgot the /sarcasm tag. Please.
posted by odinsdream at 2:45 PM on March 9, 2006


The district has recently gone through a nasty sex scandal in which the past superintendent had been molesting a male student for some time and the scandal had resulted in a prison sentence for the superintendent and the replacement of several board members, so perhaps this is just a case of hypersensitivity to anything even remotely tinged with anything remotely sexual.

I think they're freaked, personally. They had a grand jury spend a year combing through the school district paperwork and then blaming a "code of silence". That doesn't make them any less asshats than they are, but it explains their behavior somewhat.
posted by dhartung at 2:48 PM on March 9, 2006




konolia; please, tell us you forgot the /sarcasm tag. Please.

Well, at least for the bit about the naked guy with the guitar. He went by the name "Hairball." So you can imagine.

While we are on the topic, the more advanced life classes had clothed models. One of which was some guy the teacher had apparently recruited off the street, and who was obviously schizophrenic and would not shut up the whole time he was posing.
posted by konolia at 3:37 PM on March 9, 2006


Oh, and just so the rest of you will chill out, I have seen my husband naked. More than once!
posted by konolia at 3:38 PM on March 9, 2006


That way that Jesus is on the cross, with his tunic hanging kinda open = HOT!

I believe the tunic was added to images later as a modesty thing.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:49 PM on March 9, 2006


konolia, please explain why your being Christian would prevent you from drawing a nude model. I do not understand. I spent 14 years in a Christian school (most of the teachers graduated from Bob Jones University!), and never heard a prohibition against non-pornographic nude art. What's your reasoning and/or Biblical reference?
posted by chiababe at 4:18 PM on March 9, 2006


Americans in broad numbers are extremely uptight about female nudity (outside of strip clubs, that is)

You've never been to a strip club in NJ (neither have I, even when I lived there). I believe the regulation is panties stay on and at the very least pasties on the breasts. How strictly it's followed, I don't know, but I know it's not the only state with laws like that on the books.

But yeah, the US needs to chill the fuck out with the uptightness. And the Christianity thing is a bullshit red herring. God made your fucking body so be proud of it. You don't have to flaunt it (sin of pride, Rod), but nor should you be ashamed of it. Or encourage others to be ashamed of it. Nudity != sex, but since it's restricted to purely sexual situations (including movies), people think that you can't see a nude without your mind immediate jumping to fucking. Well, you could, if you were exposed to it non-sexually on occassion.
posted by Eideteker at 4:22 PM on March 9, 2006


Well, dang, you never read about when Noah got drunk and nekkid in his tent?

I never said NOBODY could draw from life. I said I probably would prefer not to now, especially if the model were not female. Surely I am allowed to have a preference?
posted by konolia at 4:23 PM on March 9, 2006


konolia writes "Surely I am allowed to have a preference?"

Of course you are, but you related your preference to your Christianity and I don't understand why.
posted by chiababe at 4:44 PM on March 9, 2006


Sure, and Adam and Eve were naked in the garden. God doesn't have a problem with nudity. According you that book, it was man's sin that caused him to be ashamed of his body.

Shouldn't Christ's sacrifice and baptism go a long way towards washing that shame away?

If your goal was to be more god like then you'd work past your discomfort (which is just the fruit of sin) and spend more time naked.
posted by willnot at 4:46 PM on March 9, 2006


Willnot, just how much of the Bible have you actually read?

And as coldnatured as I am, I'm definitely keeping my clothes on. Brrr.
posted by konolia at 5:04 PM on March 9, 2006


Most of the new testament and select chunks of the old. All that begatting gets pretty dull which turned me off pretty quickly the few times I've tried to start from the start.
posted by willnot at 5:11 PM on March 9, 2006






Yet another banner day for Orange County, NY.
posted by lampshade at 5:12 PM on March 9, 2006


heh.

i remember my first figure drawing class. there were some questions as to whether or not i'd be allowed in (i was still a high school student- the course was offered at a community college). eventually, it was a go.

so on that first day, i was ready! couldn't wait for the victoria silvstedt look-a-like model to take her place on the stool in the center of the room.

i must say, there's nothing like a 57 year old dude with a little bit of a gut and saggy man-breasts to take the "peep show" out of "figure drawing."

in the end, the class was incredibly helpful. i learned all sorts of stuff regarding "negative space" and had plenty of opportunity to dabble in various artistic styles, blah, blah, blah. and the models were quite talented: they could sit in a single position for over an hour. you'd only just catch them breathing or blinking. the class also did a lot to demystify the human form in general. i learned, in no short time, that nudity != sexuality. honestly, i don't know where else i'd have picked that up... schindler's list?

meh. it was good stuff. and if it was good stuff for a 16 yr old bundle of testosterone like myself, i'm sure it would be good stuff for just about anyone else who might benefit from the de-objectification of naked forms as "things to derive pleasure from"...

not that i don't lapse every once in a while. i mean... victoria silvstedt is hawt!
posted by narwhal at 9:34 PM on March 9, 2006


nude figure drawing is the epitomy of unsexiness.
posted by phi phi at 11:45 PM on March 9, 2006


konolia: Willnot, just how much of the Bible have you actually read?

I'm not sure that's a very constructive response, konolia. It seems to divert from responding to his comment, instead to undermine his question on an ad hominem basis, by questioning willnot's broader knowledge of Scripture.

According to the Bible, God has no problem seeing us nude, willnot. And you're right, in Eden, Adam and Eve were both nude. The key issue with nudity is not that it is inherently evil (it's not) or shameful. It's that it can be a stumbling block for people who do not have the maturity to resist their lustful urges, and so it can inflame improper thinking and actions.

Regarding the rest of the Bible, the Apostle Paul says, "Now, therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ." And elsewhere he says "Everything is permitted, but not everything is constructive." Paul mentioned those "parts of the body that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty" in his discourse on parts of the Body of Christ, but this can hardly be a complete proscription against nudity, per se.

Indeed, inasmuch as we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" and "in the image of God", it is surely true that our bodies are a remarkably and intricately beautiful creation. The idea that it is inherently sinful to appreciate the beauty of this creation is not supported by Scripture.

So, spiritually mature Christians may well be able to look at artistic nudes without it threatening them in this way. Others may have a weakness in this regard and so wish to avoid the temptation. Perhaps konolia is reflecting this in noting her personal "preference". But that's really something for her to discuss if she wishes.

Respectfully recognizing, of course, that many readers of this comment may not agree with the Bible's views on this.
posted by darkstar at 5:52 AM on March 10, 2006


MetaFilter: "It gives me an orthogonal"
posted by Mitheral at 8:07 AM on March 10, 2006


konolia, why won't you just answer your stance on your Christianity? Instead of attacking someone else's Bible studies, just say what changed when you "became a Christian". Why was it okay before to draw a nude male figure, but you wouldn't do it now? What happened? Inquiring minds want to know!
posted by annieb at 1:50 PM on March 12, 2006


One of the local bloggers in my area has a scoop on this. Apparently there is going to be a special session of the school board meeting tonight March 16, 2006 to review this guy's work history. If you support him, you might consider sending a note to some of the board folks.

More info here.
posted by sciurus at 9:35 AM on March 16, 2006


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