If only the Michelangelo mess in a Florida school was surprising
With a principal’s resignation, ‘David’ has been dragged into our weird, tiresome politics.
Michelangelo's "David."
Michelangelo's "David." [ Shutterstock ]
Published March 24|Updated March 24

By now, you’ve heard that Michelangelo’s “David” has visited Florida’s hellish political bloodbath, a place David probably never meant to hang out. Though it is ironic that he’s the one who slayed a Philistine giant.

David. You know Dave? King of Judah, regular dude. Kept sheep, played a sick harp, killed Goliath, that kind of thing. David was probably the type to be all, “Politics just divide us!” at parties but not really mean it. Not if you ask King Saul, right? Hah, burn. Let’s not get into the tea with Bathsheba and her husband Uriah (R.I.P.), not to mention the concubines.

Come to think of it, David was possibly an egomaniac, which fits in Florida. Very Old Testament! Counterpoint: he confessed as much, saying stuff like, “My iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they weigh too much for me” and whatnot. That sort of humility doesn’t fly in this state.

Anyway, David is naked. That’s the bigger problem, why he finds his sculptural likeness the center of attention in little old Florida, land of purity, goodness and protection from anatomy, except for at our many nudist resorts. Presumably, David was also bare below his clothes, although we have no proof, and the existence of bodies is not something to be discussed in a hall of learning.

Instead of asking the pertinent questions (“Is David on Ozempic?”), a few parents took issue with an art teacher showing this 16th century work in a sixth grade class at Tallahassee Classical School, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. Two said they wanted notice of the lesson; as a parent in Florida, I can confirm permission slips do show up for this kind of thing. One parent, according to the chair of the charter school’s board, Barney Bishop III, was upset that the teacher called the sculpture “nonpornography.” Which, what?

Principal Hope Carrasquilla resigned when told she’d be fired otherwise. Bishop told the Democrat that, “Parental rights are supreme, and that means protecting the interests of all parents, whether it’s one, 10, 20 or 50.”

I suggest reading this Slate interview with Bishop for a nail-biting exchange. There, he said there were other issues at play with the principal. “We don’t have any problem showing ‘David,’” he said.

“Showing the entire statue of David is appropriate at some age,” he added later. “We’re going to figure out when that is. And you don’t have to show the whole statue! Maybe to kindergartners we only show the head. You can appreciate that. You can show the hands, the arms, the muscles, the beautiful work Michelangelo did in marble, without showing the whole thing to kindergartners.”

If I may: This is all so weird.

He went on about the vaunted Hillsdale curriculum, a name you’ll remember from the recent takeover at New College, and how it’s rooted in Western moral and civic values, not like “all the crap” taught in public schools. Still, parents get advance notice of class material to account for sensitivities. Almost like... a trigger warning?

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Here’s what we do know: Even one parent turning this very well-known artwork into any kind of “thing” does not feel the least bit absurd anymore, not the way things have been going. In fact, 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, to which high school seniors raised their vape pens and said, “Whatever, my guy.” And how about the bill that would keep fourth- and fifth-graders from discussing the menstrual cycles happening in their own bewildering bodies?

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! It’s Apollo playing a lute in his birthday suit vibes, do you feel? It’s women wrapped in fig leaves with one boob hanging out, comprehend? Nudity was, perhaps, the biggest art power move of the era, aside from getting snatched up by batlike hell demons while naked. The cherubs better watch out.

Alas, with each moon, Florida schools are being remade into curio cabinets full of creepy Victorian dolls. And that’s sad. Because having a “tee-hee” moment while checking out “St. Jerome in Penitence” and punching Kyle in the shoulder during sixth period is a rite of passage each student deserves.

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