I was struck by one NPR news story today titled "Palestinian Kids' Art Deemed Unsuitable for Children." Firstly, that's a wonderful title brimming with irony and you can figure out very quickly what the report is going to be about. The reporter discussed a cancelled exhibit of artwork created by Palestinian children that would be displayed at the Oakland Museum of Children's Art. The artwork was described as violent and depicted Israel (and by extension Judaism) in a demonizing fashion.
I can see why strong supporters of Israel and Jewish activists would find the art offensive, but it seemed one of the voices against the art did not quite understand that it was created by children:
"First of all, we believe the content of the exhibit, which is intended for children, was extreme, was violent, and it defames an entire ethnic and religious group, both Israel's and Jews... There's no attempt to provide a picture of the suffering on both the Palestinian side and the Israeli side of the conflict. This is a bias, one-sided perspective that was being organized by an advocacy organization that really was trying to take advantage of the good will of this children's museum."The Rabbi speaking was probably attempting to be critical of the organizers first and not the child artists at all. But it does seem strange to assume that artwork created entirely by Palestinian children would be fair and even-handed. It, of course, would be biased against Israel and insensitive toward Judaism. This art exhibit could probably have been suited for an adult audience. Walking through a museum and seeing images depicting Israeli oppressors would be alarming to adults (knowing all we know of history and global politics). Those images being created by children could display how racism and jingoism are formed at such young ages and the terrible plight of children in war-torn and bloodied regions of the world. It would be a great lesson for grown-ups.
I'm not sure what age groups the Oakland Museum of Children's Art aims to receive, but I do think children as well as adults should be allowed to see that sort of artwork, especially together. Parents should be glad to expose their children to things that help strengthen their understanding of the world. They could communicate with each other, talk about important things. Just because it's called "adult conversation" doesn't mean adults are the only people doing it.
Clearly a three-year-old shouldn't go see that sort of art. A three-year-old can't really grasp the point of any art. I'm not exactly sure what age would be the most suitable to take to the exhibit. Children develop at vastly different speeds. Some might be ready for artwork depicting Israeli/Palestinian conflict at a younger age than others. The decision to take a child to the museum would need to be based on whether or not the parent feels one is ready for that exposure. If they get there and the child responds poorly then it's probably wise to take the kid home and watch The Goofy Movie or something (maybe go to the park or read a book together.)
I never like art censorship even for children. It seems even more ridiculous to censor children's art from children. Obviously not every child is ready for disturbing, violent imagery. So don't take them. If the kids that are ready would go and see that exhibit they would learn something, especially if there they were allowed an open and honest discourse about it.