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When does school artwork become political propaganda?

Circa 2019, we find rampant anti-Semitism in the United States Congress. Two female Muslims, newly elected, have made no attempt to hide their hatred of Jews, and the remaining members of the House of Representatives have been unable to muster the courage or decency to denounce them.  Many of the clownish herd of Democrat presidential candidates have loudly and proudly boycotted this year’s AIPAC conference.  The old, progressive left is being swept away by the new, Socialist/Islamist fascism.  Yes, gentle readers, fascism has always been a pathology of the left, not the right.  They are the present and future of the Democrat/socialist party.

However, even progressives have always known that the key to the future is controlling the minds of the young, a brutal understanding that is bearing socialistic fruit in Virginia, as J. Christian Adams at PJ Media reports:

A Virginia public school district has given a student art award to a drawing portraying a hook-nosed Jewish person carrying a money bag and entitled ‘Jewish People.’ The drawing was made as part of a student art class and won an award from Fairfax County Schools. It was on display at the Northern Virginia Community College’s Ernst Community Cultural Center, and celebrated at an awards ceremony

The caption reads, ’No Jew in the World Understands the Importance of Money.’

As one might imagine, Jews of that community were less than impressed. This was the involved teacher’s response:

This work is not being displayed ‘by me’.  It was entered by the 17 yr old student and selected by a panel of judges consisting of professional artists, designers and curators. My student is using her freedom of artistic expression to respond to a president who calls Mexicans ‘rapists’ African countries ‘Shit Hole Countries’ and White Supremacists, ‘Very Fine People.’ She chose to create a portfolio of eight works which are ANTI stereotype. She focuses on Blacks, Whites, Italians, Pakistanis, Jews, Irish etc. Her intent is to point out implicit bias that exists and raises it to the surface in the form of racial ironies. She is pointing out how racism and ugliness is now NORMALIZED by our current president who intends to divide our nation for his own personal gain. Instead of jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst, take a breath. Instead of vilifying me and a 17 year old student, look at your president who is in ‘your own back yard.’

I’ll note that President Trump never called White Supremacists “very fine people,’ quite the opposite. Some illegal immigrant Mexicans are rapists, and many African countries are precisely as Mr. Trump characterized them.  Mr. Trump donates his entire salary to charity, and is making no money from his presidency.  He was a billionaire before he set foot in the Oval Office.  One strains, however, to see a crudely drawn bit of stereotypical Jew-hatred as artistic racial irony.

The artist is a 12th grade student at South County High Schoolin Lorton, Virginia.  The display shows that Fairfax County schools bestowed an award on the drawing.

It is certainly possible the student involved is not anti-Semitic, but it is equally possible they were merely responding to the prejudices of their teacher. They probably understood they would garner rewards for reinforcing their teacher’s hatreds. Teenagers do that sort of thing, even if they don’t fully understand the underlying political abstractions.  It seems this is the kind of teacher as interested in indoctrination, perhaps more, than in teaching.

Art is, obviously, often abstract, but this appears to be more a case of clear libel against Jews.  Considering President Trump is perhaps the best friend the Jewish people have ever had in the White House, the irony of which the teacher speaks is even less apparent.

The other issue, of which English and art teachers are particularly aware, is the limits of student expression. Students have First Amendment rights, but not to the extent that they disrupt a proper educational environment. Teachers have not only the power, but the obligation to direct students away from juveniles expressions of anger and smugly uninformed rebellion toward the expression of actual art, that which elevates and enriches rather than that which diminishes and insults.

A fine high school art teacher of long acquaintance told me that if he never saw another flaming skull proudly displayed by a student, it would be too soon.  Likewise, he did not allow depictions of nudes; that sort of work would be inappropriate, as would political depictions by students thinking themself edgy without the experience or intellect to understand the history, issues—and dangers—involved.

As a teacher of English, I too guide my students.  We have our own flaming skulls.  We have no time for the political, though in discussing literature, it is often necessary to present a bit of political history for better understanding. Students may surely express their opinions, but they know some topics are not appropriate for school.  All writing assignments have a purpose, which is always to develop their abilities as a writer, not a political operative. If they wish to use what they’ve learned for that end in the future, that’s fine, but not in school.

I leave it to you, gentle readers, to determine if the work of art is a brilliantly ironic commentary on the evils of Donald Trump, or something crudely inappropriate for high school.