In a scene from the Season 2 Simpsons episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge," protesters outside the Simpsons' house carry signs saying "Stop Renaissance Art Now!" and "Cancel David!"

Michelangelo’s David Is ‘Porn,’ According to Florida Parents Who Got Principal Fired

Move over, Florida man. Florida parents are doing their absolute best to surpass your antics.

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In an uproar hewing too close for comfort to a Season 2 episode of The Simpsons, parents at a charter school in the sunshine state complained about an art history lesson featuring Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Two parents said they should have been notified before their child was exposed to two of the most famous masterpieces in the world, and a third called David “pornographic,” reported local paper the Tallahassee Democrat.

“Pornographic.” Sorry, but I need a moment. David might be the most moving piece of art I’ve ever seen in person, and even prudish social media sites like Facebook make an exception for fine art featuring nudity.

The parents’ complaints led to the forced departure of Tallahassee Classical School’s principal, who said she was told to resign or be fired. Totally reasonable reaction to sixth-graders taking a Renaissance art history class—which they are required to do under the school’s charter—seeing actual Renaissance art, right?

If we could go back in time and let Michelangelo himself defend his artistic choices, he might explain that he chose to depict his subject’s inner beauty and virtue through his outer perfection. Seriously, give the guy some credit; he was 26 when we began carving that magnificent figure out of an inferior block of marble rejected by other artists.

But never mind all that when ohmygod his penis is showing, and these parents have all the maturity of … well, I’d say sixth-graders, but I’m guessing those middle schoolers reacted with more maturity to that art lesson than their parents. And if they didn’t, so what?

What are conservative parents even afraid is going to happen, that their kid might grow up to one day sing some version of “First Penis I Saw” featuring Renaissance art? Well, too bad, because that actually sounds awesome.

On a more serious note, I’m not usually a fan of singling out what happens at one school and blowing it up into a national controversy, but this isn’t just any school. Tallahassee Classical School is affiliated with Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian school that has resolved to fight “leftist academics” by building a network of publicly funded charter schools. As you can imagine, their model has proven popular with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The small Christian college has been advising him on K-12 curriculum and efforts to expand conservative-leaning charter schools in the state.

Those charter schools seem devoted to their publicly funded, politically tinged mission. Barney Bishop, the Tallahassee Classical School’s board chair, throws around phrases like “parents’ rights” and “woke indoctrination.” “We don’t use pronouns,” Bishop said. “We don’t teach CRT and we don’t ever mention 1619 — those are not appropriate subjects for our kids.” Apparently, neither is fine art.

If only we didn’t have to pay attention to low-level school officials like Bishop, but similar ideas about so-called “parents’ rights” are sweeping schools across the country, and the only parents who seem to qualify for those rights are conservative, Christian, white, cishet, etc. If you want your kid to learn controversial ideas like the truth about slavery or that the human body isn’t inherently shameful, good luck being heard over the yelling at local school board meetings.

At Tallahassee Classical School, for example, parents other than the three who complained were shocked about the principal’s sudden resignation. One parent said they weren’t given enough notice to attend the emergency school board meeting to offer their input or even to hear what had happened before it was over.

“It’s starting to feel like the school is becoming part of an agenda,” she told the Tallahassee Democrat.

By the way, I cannot believe we are even having some of these conversations when kids have access to the internet. Which, believe me, no matter how controlling conservative parents try to be, their kids absolutely do.

(featured image: screengrab, Fox)


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Erika Wittekind
Erika Wittekind (she/her) is a contributing writer covering politics and news and has two decades of experience in local news reporting, freelance writing, and nonfiction editing. Her hobbies and special interests include hiking, dancing in the kitchen, trying to raise empathetic teen boys, and keeping plants alive. Find her on Mastodon at @erikalyn.newsie.social.