Dispute at US school: Is Michelangelo's David too naked?

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Art or Pornography? The fact that she showed the world-famous “David” statue by Michelangelo in class cost a headmistress in the USA her job.

Surrounded by visitors: Michelangelo David in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence

In the social networks, users reacted sometimes outraged, sometimes amused. Confusing art with pornography is “just ridiculous,” tweeted Florence Mayor Dario Nardella. The statue of the Renaissance artist Michelangelo (1457-1564) is on display there in the Galleria dell'Accademia. 

What happened? Hope Carrasquilla, principal of Tallahassee Classical School in Florida, was forced to resign after the school board chair gave her an ultimatum to resign, the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported. Parents complained to the school board that their children were dead Must view pornography. 

School board chairman Barney Bishop III told Slate magazine that he had no problem with Michelangelo's “David” being shown to eleven- and twelve-year-old students in class. But it was a “monstrous mistake” not to inform the parents beforehand. Parents should be able to decide for themselves whether it is appropriate for their child to see the statue. There were several reasons for the separation from Headmistress Carrasquilla. However, he cannot talk about this for labor law reasons.

Parents should decide for themselves

Equally famous: Michelangelo's fresco “The Creation of Adam” in the Sistine Chapel in Rome

In fact, the school's standard protocol is to send parents a letter before students are shown such classic artworks, the resigning director of the Huffington Post confirmed. Because of “a series of misunderstandings”, the letter did not reach the parents of the sixth graders, after which some complained. “It makes me sad,” says Hope Carrasquilla, “that my time here had to end like this.” In the meantime, the teacher has been escorted off the school premises by police officers, reports the “Tallahassee Democrat”. A teacher who had started an online petition to protest against the dismissal was also threatened with disciplinary action and his petition was removed from the internet.

“The incident at Tallahassee Classical School fits in with current political developments in Florida,” wrote the German news magazine Der Spiegel. Republican governor Ron DeSantis is currently massively restricting the freedom of teaching in his state's schools – according to this, students should no longer be taught about racism, among other things. In 2022, DeSantis banned teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida elementary schools. It is currently planned to extend this ban to all age groups – the Florida Education Council is scheduled to vote on this in April.

Outrage in David's hometown of Florence

Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence

Events also made waves in central Italy's Florence, where Michelangelo's monumental statue stands. The director of the Galleria dell'Accademia, the German historian Cecilie Hollberg, was outraged and amazed. “It's absurd. Nudity is not the same as pornography,” she told the Italian daily La Repubblica. The statue of David, created between 1501 and 1504, is the symbol of the Renaissance and shows man in all his God-made immaculateness. The museum in Florence is one of the most visited museums in Italy, mainly because of the famous David sculpture. Michelangelo's marble sculpture shows the biblical David at the moment when he is about to take up the fight against the giant Goliath with a slingshot.

The mayor of Florence has even invited the former school director to Florence. He wanted to express his appreciation on behalf of the city. “Art is civilization – and those who teach it deserve respect.” 

sd/nf (dpa/Der Spiegel/FAZ/Huffington Post/Tallahassee Demoncrat)