The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux apparently said that in the 1100s, and it’s as true today as it was in the 12th century.
One school principal in Tallahassee in Florida found that out in March when sixth grade children in her care were “exposed” to Michelangelo’s David in all his glory during a lesson on art history and the renaissance. The children were 11 or 12 years old. Somehow the parents were not told by the principal’s office that the children would be exposed to nudity.
Having been the chairwoman of a school board (not in Guam and years ago), I am fully sympathetic that the matter reached the chairman of the school. As a chairwoman, parents would call me — usually in the evening — about all sorts of things.
I once received a call about comparative religion classes at the school. The issue with that particular parent was not that their child was being taught about other religions, but that his particular religion was not first on the syllabus. Let’s just say I listened, but was able to defuse the situation.
The school board chairman in Tallahassee called the mistake of not alerting parents “egregious” according to local media. “Showing the entire statue of David is appropriate at some age. We're going to figure out when that is,” he said. The principal was told to resign or be fired.
When my family visited Italy, the aim was to satisfy some of everybody’s wishes, as on any family trip. I wanted to see the David in the Academia Galleria in Florence, since I’d only seen a replica (there are 30 of them in the world and three are in Florence). My son had been 13 for a month. He complained about lining up for two hours to see a statue. His comment when we saw the David was how big the statue was. Apparently, any other “exposure” didn’t register. The David is 17 feet tall. You can walk around the statue, admire the skill and detail, and take photos. The David deserves all the attention it gets.
As to their schooling, I don’t remember if my children were given the opportunity to appreciate renaissance art. Probably so. I remember soccer, the PTA, Boy Scouts and bake sales.
You can’t visit museums and exhibits in England or Europe without encountering nudity in art and artifacts. But we also saw our fair share of dinosaur bones and hands-on science at museums.
I am not sure how blessed Florida is with museums and galleries. When we visited Florida, the main aim was Disney World and that was great fun.
In Guam, the board of the public school and the Guam Legislature are busy with school campus maintenance and safety. DOE had and still has a bad reputation and Southern High School is an ongoing example of institutional neglect.
But in the islands, we know how to respect art. The island and the islands don’t point fingers at different cultures or perspectives. Defusing situations has a better outcome. There’s a term for that in CHamoru: “inafa’maolek” — the concept of harmony and getting along.
Parents in Talahassee complained about the nudity, and the David was called “pornographic.” In response, Florence Mayor Dario Nardella tweeted an invitation for the principal to visit so he can personally honor her. Parents are welcome too, he said. Confusing art with pornography was “ridiculous,” Nardella said.
I am glad to be in Micronesia, where we appreciate differences and different perspectives — because the “ugly American” now has a renaissance in Europe in 2023.
— Maureen N. Maratita is the publisher at Glimpses Media. Publications at Glimpses Media include the Marianas Business Journal, MBJ Life, The Real Estate Journal, Guam Business Magazine, Beach Road Magazine, Buenas and Drive Guam.