In yet another eventful week, there is the story of Tallahassee Classical, a charter school (K-12) in Florida. Harold Maas writing in The Week reports that the board of the Tallahassee Classical School “pressured the principal, Hope Carrasquilla, to resign after three parents of sixth-graders complained that their children had been shown an image of Michelangelo’s David—a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture—without their knowledge. One of the parents said the statue, which depicts the heroic Biblical figure standing nude, was ‘pornographic.’”
This incident is especially ironic in that the school’s mission statement, as it appears on their website, states: Tallahassee Classical School is training the minds and improving the hearts of young people through a content-rich classical education in the liberal arts and sciences, with instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue.
The curriculum is based upon E.D. Hirsch’s concept of cultural literacy, with the intention of training students in the art, literature, science, history, math, and language that form their cultural and intellectual heritage.
Barney Bishop III, chair of the charter school’s board, said the problem with the lesson wasn’t nudity. The problem “was that the administration didn’t follow board policy to notify parents so they could decide whether to request a different lesson if they felt David was not age-appropriate. ‘Parental rights are supreme.’” [I remind you, these are sixth graders! Ed.]
As Stephanie Hayes writes in The Tampa Bay Times, “How ironic that this school uses ‘the vaunted Hillsdale curriculum’—popular with conservatives because ‘it’s rooted in Western moral and civic values…but the anti-woke crowd is upset the parents didn’t get a trigger warning.”
The “drama might be mildly amusing if it were restricted to one dysfunctional school,” argued Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian. “Alas, it’s just the latest example of a terrifying lurch towards censorship and authoritarianism in Florida,” where Gov. Ron DeSantis “is on a censorship crusade” with schools as his “first major battleground.” DeSantis is putting so-called parental choice ahead of education and students’ rights, pushing to limit what teachers can teach about race, gender, and sexuality.”
Hayes’ use of the term “trigger warning” was set in stark relief just hours later in the most tragic way. A mass killing in Nashville, TN, left six people dead, including three nine-year-olds. There was no trigger warning here either. But this time, the term is not meant to be symbolic—it is devastatingly real with heartbreaking results.
And yet, as Annie Karni reported in the New York Times, Washington lawmakers were largely silent about the tragedy. “’We’re not going to fix it,’ Representative Tim Burchett, Republican of Tennessee, told reporters on the steps of the Capitol just hours after the shooting that killed three children and three adults in his home state. ‘Criminals are going to be criminals.’” Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, said Congress had done enough. ‘When we start talking about bans or challenging the Second Amendment, the things that have already been done have gone about as far as we’re going with gun control,’ Rounds told CNN.”
The irony deepens. Emily Olson, reporting on NPR noted that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo)–infamous for his silence during the January Sixth insurrection–called for federal agencies to investigate the shooting as a hate crime “against Christians” as did Sen. John Kennedy (R-La). Really? Bluster abounds, but no substantive action emerged.
In comparing these two incidents, both with absent “trigger warnings,” one is compelled to ask: How many who viewed the statue of David were killed during their experience? Seriously, when we talk about protecting our children—where should we be investing our energy?