March 27, 2023

Michelangelo’s David

A Florida charter school principal has been forced to resign after a parent complained sixth graders were exposed to pornography during a lesson on Renaissance art that included Michelangelo’s ‘David’ sculpture… One parent complained the material was pornographic and two other parents said they wanted to be notified of the lesson before it was given to their children, [former principal Hope] Carrasquilla said.” AP News

Both sides criticize the school, arguing that David is not inappropriate:

“After just three parents complained about the lesson… the Tallahassee Classical School board of directors called for Carrasquilla's resignation… Barney Bishop, who serves as head of the charter school's board, claimed that ‘parental rights are supreme.’ ‘That means protecting the interests of all parents, whether it's one, 10, 20 or 50,’ he told HuffPost… The school has more than 530 students, with 56 students enrolled in the sixth grade… [So] just 5.3 percent of sixth-grade parents (and around just half of 1 percent of all the parents of students in the school) lodged complaints about the lesson.”
Chris Walker, Salon

“Widely seen as one of the most beautiful and impactful works of art in the western world, Michelangelo’s David has been a subject of controversy since it was unveiled in 1504 in Florence. The 17-foot-tall masterpiece showed off the artist’s brilliant command of balance and form with an extraordinary precision that shocked the artistic world at the time. But Michelangelo created his vision of David naked. And for 600 years, popes, critics, and clergy have all sought to cover up David’s small genitals because, well, think of the children!…

“There are a lot of subjects that parents might wish their young children not to be exposed to. But the David depiction was taught in a lesson given to 11 and 12-year-olds. There is nothing inherently sexual in the work. It is forthright, straightforward, honest, and extraordinarily beautiful. Giving pre-teens an opportunity to view and discuss this important artwork should have overridden any objections to David’s nakedness from parents.”
Rick Moran, PJ Media

Other opinions below.

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From the Left

“This David-related drama might be mildly amusing if it were restricted to one dysfunctional school. Alas, it’s just the latest example of a terrifying lurch towards censorship and authoritarianism in Florida… Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature has already passed a number of laws limiting how gender, sexuality and race can be taught. Now the state is trying to limit sex education with a draft law that would ban schools teaching about menstrual cycles before the sixth grade…

“Because DeSantis isn’t as erratic as Donald Trump, because he’s well spoken and went to Yale and Harvard, I think there has been a tendency in some quarters to minimize the dangers he poses, to think he’s not as scary as Trump. Think this at your peril. DeSantis shouldn’t be compared to Trump – he should be compared to Hungary’s far-right leader, Viktor Orbán, who is much beloved by US conservatives. Orbán has put an authoritarian playbook in place that DeSantis appears to be following.”

Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian

It’s worth noting that this school is required to teach Renaissance art in sixth grade. For parents, I don’t see how this can be accomplished without looking at body parts. Artistically speaking, the Renaissance was one big pig roast at Caliente Resorts, OK? The period captured the rise of detailed human forms, lifelike hairs, skin, faces and organs heretofore not rendered in such rich relief… Nudity was, perhaps, the biggest art power move of the era, aside from getting snatched up by batlike hell demons while naked…

“The same folks wary of David’s bits are quite concerned with monitoring the status of other people’s body parts. Just this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to extend his ban on lessons of sexual orientation and gender identity into senior year… And how about the bill that would keep fourth- and fifth-graders from discussing the menstrual cycles happening in their own bewildering bodies?”

Stephanie Hayes, Tampa Bay Times

From the Right

“I don’t know what to say about the parent who claimed the sculpture is pornographic. That’s absurd. You can argue whether or not you want to have your child exposed to great works of art at the age of 11 or 12 but even then I would argue that it would be appropriate material. I’m certain that by the sixth grade, I was aware of the sculpture and at that age, I was in a regular public school, not a charter school or private school. There was no special focus on classical education…

“It’s easy to see how the bills coming out of the Florida Legislature with the approval of Governor DeSantis will be politicized. Everything is politicized today. There are slams against DeSantis for his conservative opinions on social issues and his goal to protect very young children from progressive social agendas, at least in the classroom. I don’t think, however, that showing the ‘David’ sculpture in a sixth-grade art history class is controversial.”

Karen Townsend, Hot Air

“As for advance notice, I can’t fathom what the parents in this case expected when they learned their children would be taking a class in Renaissance art history. Not anticipating nudity in a course like that is like not anticipating F-bombs in a class devoted to the films of Martin Scorsese. I don’t recall my own parents being warned before we were shown Renaissance nudes in school—but then I also don’t recall them being warned before we learned about slavery or the Holocaust…

“When I ask myself how I’d feel about my own 11-year-old child seeing David, particularly an 11-year-old daughter who’s unfamiliar with the male form, I do see the virtue of receiving a polite heads-up from school that the subject of wieners might soon be broached. Not because I’d feel obliged to ‘prepare’ my child for it somehow—although some parents might—but because notice in a case as innocuous as this one would reassure me that notice will certainly be given ahead of truly sensitive lessons.”

Nick Catoggio, The Dispatch

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