If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve probably seen stories about the charter school principal in Florida who was forced out of her job after a few parents complained that their sixth-grade children had seen a photo of Michelangelo’s famous “David” statue in class.
The irony is, the institution in question, Tallahassee Classical School, calls itself a “classical academy,” so one would think studying great works of art would be part of its mission. Nevertheless, the school board gave Principal Hope Carrasquilla the choice to either resign or be fired. She chose to resign.
Media outlets reported that two parents complained that their children were exposed to nudity without the parents receiving prior notification. One apparently went so far as to call the statue, which is widely recognized as one of the Western world’s greatest works of art, “pornographic.”
The ‘Parental Rights’ Facade
Carrasquilla said the school’s normal process is to send letters about works of art like this, but in this case, someone dropped the ball, and the letters didn’t go out. Carrasquilla apologized, but that wasn’t good enough.
The issue has national relevance because Christian Nationalists and their political allies are pushing “parental rights” legislation in many states and in Congress. The term, of course, is a euphemism. The “right” many parents are seeking is the ability to remove material that offends them and wield total control over school curriculum for all children, not just their own.
“What doesn’t work is when you have parents who are trying to say, ‘This is your curriculum, this is what you’re supposed to be teaching,’” Carrasquilla told NPR.
Censorship In The Classroom
Parents should be partners with schools, but the overreaction in this case suggests what’s really going on: Some parents are demanding the ability to examine everything that’s taught in the classroom and remove material that doesn’t meet with their approval – and Christian Nationalist groups are leading this charge.
That simply isn’t feasible. We have to give education professionals the latitude to do their jobs. An extreme definition of “parental rights” makes that all but impossible. Worse, it stands the central purpose of education – to enlighten and inform students and prod them to think – on its head.
P.S. Tallahassee Classical School is a public charter affiliated with Hillsdale College, a fundamentalist institution in Michigan. Barney Bishop, president of the board of Tallahassee Classical School, has boasted that parents who send their kids there are against “woke indoctrination” and added, “We don’t use pronouns.” Why is this institution receiving public support?
Photo: Michelangelo’s “David” undergoes restoration work at the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, Italy, in 2020. (Laura Lezza/Getty Images)