Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Art of Compromise (or Compromising Art?)

This St. Paul, Minn. school struggled with a quandary: How do they teach art to Muslim students who are not allowed to create human images?

According to this article:

That presented a challenge for Higher Ground Academy, a K-12 school just west of Central High School on Marshall Avenue that has about 450 students. About 70 percent of them are Muslim immigrants from eastern Africa.

Executive Director Bill Wilson said he had concerns for some time about how to reconcile the school's art curriculum with the views of Muslim families, but the departure of the art teacher at the end of last school year gave him a window to act.

This fall, he hired ArtStart, a St. Paul-based nonprofit organization, to offer more options for about 150 kindergartners through second-graders, including visual arts and drumming. But parents were still upset that their children were drawing figures, Wilson said, and some pulled their children out of art class altogether.

Wilson then sat down with teacher and parent liaison Abdirahman Sheikh Omar Ahmad, who also is the imam at an Islamic center in Minneapolis, to work with ArtStart in determining how to meet state standards without running afoul of Muslim doctrine.
Part of me is glad that we live in a society that can accomodate and adjust, and respect cultural beliefs that have become religious dogma (and that we can serve as an example to societies that have zero capacity to adjust), and yet, part of me is a little concerned, although I am not really sure why.

Read the whole story here.

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