Lesson on ‘David’ statue deemed pornographic by Florida school board

Renaissance art has been very influential on Western society and has had a great impact on our lives since the 14th century. One of the most well-known art pieces that was created during the Renaissance is “David” by Michelangelo. This piece is still praised today for its beauty and embodiment of the era’s values, thus it is a major part of art and history curricula in middle and high schools across the United States and beyond.

The statue of “David” depicts the biblical figure David on his way to fight the giant Goliath with nothing but a sling and his faith in God.

The David was commissioned to stand on the roof of the Florentine Church. Photo courtesy of Jörg Bittner Unna, WIkipedia

Recently this famous statue has become a topic of debate because a Florida school included it in the curriculum but failed to notify parents of the sixth-grade students that photos of the statue would be shown in class.

The school in question is Tallahassee Classical School, which has taught the topic every year with no prior issues. This year, the school received two complaints from parents stating that they never received notice that a nude statue was being shown to their children, and one parent complained that their child was shown “pornography.”

As a result, the school principal, Hope Carrasquilla, was forced to resign. According to NPR, Carrasquilla was not aware of why she was being asked to resign but assumed it had to do with the art history lesson.

Barney Bishop III, the chair of the school board, said that the school usually sends letters to parents before teaching potentially controversial lessons. Apparently in past years, letters were sent for lessons that featured “David,” “The Birth of Venus” and “The Creation of Adam.

Bishop said in an interview with Dan Kois for Slate that this was an “egregious mistake” and that “parents are entitled to know anytime their child is being taught a controversial topic and picture.”

I agree with the notion that parents should be notified when their children are learning about controversial topics, but unfortunately, I do not see “David” as controversial. I see this piece as an important aspect of Renaissance education and a striking recreation of the human body.

Cecilie Hollberg, who is the director of Galleria dell’Accademia in Italy where the statue of David is showcased, was “astonished” when she heard about the parental complaints.

Hollberg said that “a distinction must be made between nudity and pornography.” I agree that nudity in art should not be seen as pornography, rather, it should be seen as appreciation and representation of the human form, and it shouldn’t be censored for modesty.

Hollberg went on to say that “there is nothing pornographic or aggressive about the ‘David,’ he is a young boy, a shepherd, who even according to the Bible did not have ostentatious clothes but wanted to defend his people with what he had.”

I understand that a line needs to be drawn someplace, but nudity should not be censored in curricula when it is being used as a means to educate.

I see this piece as an important aspect of Renaissance education and a striking recreation of the human body.

“We’re not going to show the full statue of ‘David’ to kindergartners. We’re not going to show him to second graders. Showing the entire statue of ‘David’ is appropriate at some age. We’re going to figure out when that is,” said Bishop.

Students are usually 11-12 years old in sixth grade, and in most American school curriculums, they would have experienced sex education for about a year prior. If the sixth grade is an appropriate time to learn about the Renaissance and attend sex education classes, I think that it is an appropriate time to learn to appreciate art as well as the human form.



Featured photo courtesy of Jörg Bittner Unna, WIkipedia