A primary school art teacher in Utah is at the centre of a controversial debate after being fired for showing nude paintings in an art lesson. Mateo Rueda was teaching a fifth grade class and, reportedly as part of a color study, showed the students a series of well-known artworks that come as part of Phaidon’s The Art Box postcard set. The set includes iconic works by artists from Monet to Van Gogh to Miró, and classical nudes by Boucher, Botticelli, Bronzino, Modigliani, and Ingres. According to reports in numerous local news outlets, the postcards were already part of the school’s library.
Eventually, a parent of one of the 5th graders found out about the the lesson and called the police, reporting the teacher for exposing the children to pornography. Though no charges have been filed against the teacher, he was fired from his position. It became public knowledge when another parent, Kamee Jensen, published a letter in The Herald Journal in defense of the teacher.
A source told the newspaper that Rueda “didn’t know some works on the postcard set contained nudity, and took them away when they made students uncomfortable”. Another source said it wasn’t the content of the postcards that troubled them but the tone the teacher took with students who felt uncomfortable seeing them. A parent says he told pupils to “grow up and be mature about this”; whereas Maeda claims he actually said “when you grow up, you’re going to find yourselves going to museums or to places where unavoidably there’s going to be nudity.”
Local police deemed that “the Impressionist and Rococo nudes aren’t pornography, and Rueda is appealing his dismissal.
I’d bet by 5th grade, students have seen worse online.