One way to soften the blow of losing a job is to be invited to Florence, Italy, and feted by the director of a famous museum along with the mayor.
Hope Carrasquilla, the former principal of Tallahassee Classical Academy, was asked to resign or be fired in March after sixth-grade students were taught about and shown a picture of Michelangelo’s “David” statue. The lesson is taught annually but an email alerting parents that students would see this nude statue was mistakenly not sent out. Three parents were upset, with one calling “David” pornographic.
The school made an apology. But this wasn’t enough.
After Carrasquilla became jobless, Florence Mayor Dario Nardella tweeted: “I will personally invite the teacher to Florence to give her recognition on behalf of the city. Art is civilization and whoever teaches it deserves respect.”
Carrasquilla traveled to see the giant gleaming white marble statue of the biblical hero David, a sling over his shoulder and a rock in hand, youth on his side and his fierce faith in God to battle Goliath.
“ ‘David’ was magnificent in person,” Carrasquilla said after her visit to the Accademia Galleria, where the Renaissance artwork is housed.
She’s right. “David,” along with other important works of art from the Renaissance Classicism period from 1400 to 1600, is a masterpiece in refined sculpture.
“We are talking about the roots of Western culture, and ‘David’ is the height, the height of beauty,” Accademia Galleria director Cecilie Hollberg said in March.
“David” epitomizes the Renaissance, the intellectual movement and feast of knowledge that mimicked the literature, rhetoric, art and philosophy of the ancient world, specifically from ancient Rome.
From this time in history, classical modes of thinking were applied to education, diplomacy, civic duties, history and poetry – the humanities that inspired classical education. And a lot of naked people are in its artwork.
During the Renaissance, the nude human body was depicted in forms from sensuous to ascetic with martyrs turned saints to the devastating fate of damned souls in hell.
To understand the human skeleton and the character of muscles, artists studied anatomy through dissection. Artistic training included nude models so artists could realistically master bodily structure, gesture and pose. Skin tones, a sparkle in one’s eye, a moment. Wonder and the divine were captured in convincing figural compositions.
If “David” were offensive, it’s mind-boggling that parents would enroll children in a classical academy that teaches, well, the classics.
Even more so, three parents at Tallahassee Classical with 488 students were able to get this principal canned. Carrasquilla, a devout evangelical Christian, was all in. She had 27 years of teaching experience, including 10 years from classical education. A slight, loud minority took down Carrasquilla. It makes no sense that three parents could carry more weight than most.
“Parental rights are supreme, and that means protecting the interests of all parents, whether it’s one, 10, 20 or 50,” school board chairman Barney Bishop III told the Tallahassee Democrat in March.
What about the rights of parents who disagreed?
Tallahassee Classical follows a curriculum from Hillsdale College, the conservative, Christian institution in Michigan that inspired Ascent Classical Academy, which tried – unsuccessfully – to open charter schools in Durango and Ignacio. Besides “David,” required lessons for sixth-graders included images of “The Creation of Adam” fresco painting and “Birth of Venus“ by Botticelli.
More naked people.
Parents are supposed to be alerted to “controversial” topics. But “David” was already part of the curriculum, which means the statue wouldn’t be controversial. “David” was sculpted in the classical style, included in a lesson about Renaissance art, at a classical school.
What’s the problem?
Days after Carrasquilla was let go, the U.S. House Republicans passed the national Parents Bill of Rights to boost parents’ access to information about children’s education.
The bill requires schools to notify parents they have the right to review the curriculum and school budget, inspect books and other library materials, and receive information about any violent activity in schools.
For now, we’re day dreaming about Carrasquilla strolling Florence’s stone streets, then stopping for a Negroni under a striped umbrella. Florence is where her hurt could be healed. It’s the place of spirits who, long ago, put much thought into making our world more beautiful, educated, dignified and just.