A primary school art teacher in Utah in the US 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 (Year 6) class and, reportedly as part of a colour 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. Soon after, a parent of one of the school’s pupils found out about the content of 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 published a letter in The Herald Journal in defence 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”.
The paper also reported that police deemed that “the Impressionist and Rococo nudes aren’t pornography”. The teacher is appealing his dismissal.