Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Art Teacher Suspended for Recommending Figure Drawing Classes

The case of Pete Panse takes the cake and makes our own DC area's antipathy towards nudity in art seem tame by comparison.
Photo of Peter Panse Courtesy of ARC
Pete Panse is a High School art teacher in Middletown, NY whom we are told uses traditional techniques to train his students.

Last December Mr. Panse was suspended from his teaching job for apparently recommending (that's right: recommending) that some of his advanced students consider taking figure drawing courses that included nude figure drawings.

Panse was suspended from his teaching job pending hearings. Depending on the outcome of these hearings, he may be permanently fired, ending a 25-year teaching career. Panse is a National Board Certified Teacher (in Adolescent and Young Adult Art), the highest level of certification that a teacher can achieve in America. He is also one of only two National Board Certified Teachers in his New York District, and "is a trained Facilitator for helping teachers explore and pursue the requirements needed to achieve National Board Certification."

According to this excellent summary by Brian Yoder:

"In his discussions with students Mr. Panse mentioned several options for advancing their figure drawing skills; the local community college, a nearby frame shop that sponsors art classes, and the prestigious New York Academy of Art. He also described pre-college figure drawing programs at several other New York City art schools, and a highly successful art college prep program called the Mill Street Loft.

In addition to these established courses, Mr. Panse also indicated that he was considering the possibility of offering an intensive figure drawing program of his own (8 hours a day every Saturday for 35 weeks). This proposed course would also be open to area art teachers, and would have required that parents serve as chaperones to ensure a strong adult presence. Ultimately, Mr. Panse was unable to locate inexpensive space for a studio and was prevented from carrying out his plan because of the controversy that erupted over the proposal.

Panse told his students that if his own figure drawing class materialized, he would be obligated to submit any advertisement to the school principal for approval, and that a denial might preclude him from offering the course to his own students, for their consideration."
It was the mention, or discussion of the "possibility" that Panse would offer an intensive figure drawing class, that apparently got him suspended and may get him fired.

As Brian Yoder points out in the article:
"This seems particularly odd, since the ninth grade art history survey course includes dozens of images of nudes. Mr. Panse's students had completed that unit previously, and are now upperclassmen.

Moreover, art teachers are required to speak of career options in the art field, what training is required, and how students might prepare for art school, so according to the official school policy, art teachers are required to show nude images to their students and are required to tell them about nude figure drawing courses that they might enroll in."
And Yoder further clarifies that:
"Just to be clear about the charges in this case, it is worth mentioning what Mr. Panse is not being accused of.

He is not being accused of recommending that these students attend these classes without parental permission or without proper supervision and chaperones.

He is not even being accused of carrying out any figure drawing courses, only of recommending them and proposing that he offer such a course.

Nobody is accusing him of forcing anyone to go to these sessions and indeed, neither the four students who attended the sessions last summer nor their parents have any complaints at all about the experience.

Nobody is claiming that anything unsavory was going on in any of these figure drawing sessions, involving Mr. Panse, Academy instructors, his students, the models, other artists, or anyone else."
What can we do?

Write Letters of Support: Letters of support (especially if you have some kind of professional qualifications) will help bolster Mr. Panse’s case. In order to prevent a flood of mail from overcoming Mr. Panse, Brian Yoder has volunteered to collect the letters and deliver them to Mr. Panse in bulk. You can send letters to him at:
Brian Yoder
972 Cornell Road
Pasadena, CA 91106

Write to the Board of Education:
Middletown School District Board of Education
223 Wisner Avenue
Middletown, NY 10940

Sign the online petition: has created an online petition at this website for supporters to sign. Add your name to the petition as I will.

Read the entire Brian Yoder article here.


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