Port: We sure are doing a lot of stupid things to supposedly 'protect' children

We're living through a new spasm of the sort of priggish, sententious puritanism that has plagued humanity for about as long as there have been humans.

Michelangelo's David statue
Michelangelo's David

Minot, N.D. — Last year, a new school opened its doors in Fargo.

The Capstone Academy is a private school that, per its website , is affiliated with Hillsdale College , a conservative institution of higher education that emphasizes a "classical" education. Capstone is coming up on the end of its first school year, having enrolled over 100 students last fall .

A blue and gold sign advertising for Capstone Classical Academy outside a brown building.
Capstone Classical Academy’s main building, which will house pre-k through third grade, is pictured Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, at 3910 25th St. S., Fargo.
Michael Vosburg / The Forum

I was thinking about Capstone, and its promotion of "classical" education, as I read the national headlines about a school in Tallahassee, Florida, which fired its principal because she showed a group of sixth-graders a photo of Michelangelo's famed sculpture of David - of David and Goliath fame - during an art history lesson.

It's fitting that this sculpture would be a part of an art history curriculum. It is perhaps the most famous statue in the history of art. It is so iconic it is often literally used as an icon to represent the concept of art. But the statue is a nude depiction, with David's genitalia on display, and that got some of the parents in Florida hopping mad.

Now the principal is looking for a new job.


Allow me to pause here and point out that the name of this school in Florida is the Tallahassee Classical School. It, too, is affiliated with Hillsdale and purports to provide a "classical education," though it's hard to reconcile that claim with comments from the delightfully alliterative Barney Bishop III, chairman of the school's board, who wants you to know that he consider's Michelangelo's statue on par with, uh, critical race theory?

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"Parents choose this school because they want a certain kind of education," he's said in response to this controversy . "We’re not gonna have courses from the College Board. We’re not gonna teach 1619 or CRT crap."

Yes. We must protect these aspiring classicists from the horrible realities of Renaissance art.

Keep in mind that David is a biblical figure and that the sculpture was originally intended to be displayed in a cathedral.

Just wait until these purveyors of "classical education" learn that homosexuality was an accepted part of ancient Greek culture .

Can you tell I'm being sarcastic? Because I'm laying it on pretty thick.

We sure are doing a lot of stupid things in the name of protecting children, aren't we? This happened in Florida, but it could just as well have happened in another state, including North Dakota. Our state Legislature has spent considerable time focused on unnecessary legislation aimed at censoring books and public performances and even regulating pronoun use .

These bills are promoted by adults who tell us they are motivated by a desire to protect children but let's be honest; we're living through a new spasm of the sort of priggish, sententious puritanism that has plagued humanity for about as long as there have been humans.


Girolamo Savonarola, the 15th-century scourge of Renaissance Florida, would have been delighted by the philistines running the Tallahassee Classical School. The 16th century's Council of Trent, with their "fig leaf campaign" to cover up the naughty bits of Vatican artwork, would have been enthused, too.

More recently, we had the Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1920s, the result of an effort to protect children from scientific teachings about evolution. The 1930s and 1940s brought us the Hays Code for the movie industry. The 1950s saw Comics Code Authority. In the 1980s, Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center aimed at the music industry , and in the early 2000s, it was then-Sen. Hillary Clinton starting a war on video games , and Attorney General John Ashcroft trying to put a bra on the "Spirit of Justice."

Today it's right-wing dunderheads in Florida trying to figure out how to teach middle schoolers about classical art without actually showing them classical art, and left-wing nincompoops censoring the word "fat" in Roald Dahl's books .

The censors never really go away. But then, in the long run, they never win, either. I guess we can be thankful for that.

By the way, those of you primed to accuse me of hypocrisy in bemoaning the prudish impulses of a private school while simultaneously supporting a school choice bill that would direct public money to private schools, I'll defend myself by arguing that people should be allowed to make choices. Even if they might make dumb ones.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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