Why Michelangelo’s ‘David’ Statue Is an Important Part of My Kids’ Education

How do I foster my sons’ God-given masculinity, while ensuring they treat women with dignity and respect?

Michelangelo’s ‘David’
Michelangelo’s ‘David’ (photo: QQ7 / Shutterstock)

‘It seems that Michelangelo allowed himself to be guided by ... the Book of Genesis, which, as regards the creation of the human being, male and female, reveals: The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.’ —Pope St. John Paul II

A Florida principal at a classical charter school was recently forced to resign after including Michelangelo’s iconic 16th-century David statue in her school’s art curriculum. While most parents at the school supported the 6th-grade lesson on the statue — a statue that is widely regarded as one of the most important contributions to Renaissance art — a few parents complained the naked statue was pornographic.

These events not only led to the principal’s resignation, but the school’s Christian curriculum provider, Hillsdale College, which defended the sculpture as “one of the most important works of art in existence,” broke ties with the school, refusing to renew their license that expires at the end of the year. And with the recent socio-political climate in Florida, the event has stirred up a lot of discussion on social media, particularly against the parents who levied the complaint. But it should be known that these parents were not the first to take issue with the remarkable statue’s "naked parts" — to use the words of my giggling 5-year-old when we researched this article together.

When the 17-foot tall, 12,000-pound statue that was carved from a single block of white Italian Carrara marble was first installed in the Piazza Della Signoria in Florence, Italy, in 1504, city officials had to cover David’s privates with copper leaves because locals complained and threw stones at it. Even Leonardo DaVinci, who initially praised the statue, expressed that the biblical David’s genitals should be "covered by a loincloth." The copper leaves remained until the mid-16th century.

I’ll never forget coming across this David statue while studying Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body online. At the time, almost 20 years ago, I was at the cusp of converting to Catholicism and at the beginning of my journey as a mom to a newborn son. The two avenues have merged into a holy, testosterone-filled adventure that would eventually include homeschooling seven beautiful boys — yes, you just read that correctly — seven beautiful boys. I’m still trying to get my head around it, and around my grocery bill.

I must admit I’ve always been pretty flipped out about the huge responsibility of raising seven sons into manhood.

How do I foster their God-given masculinity, while ensuring they treat women with dignity and respect?

I’ve worried about my sons seeing pornography on friends’ cellphones. I’ve worried about them seeing pornography on their own cellphones. Not because I’m a prude, but because I love each one of my boys fiercely. And I know that pornography is harmful to them, because if a person is allowed to view another human being in such a limited, objectified sense, how will he then view himself?

And one thing that’s given me a lot of comfort‚ as the years have passed and my oldest son is about to head off to college, is the fact that thanks to the wisdom of Pope St. John Paul II I’ve managed to cram a whole lot of splendid images into my sons’ minds — specifically in regard to the human body portrayed in art. My goal has been to expose my boys to masterful works like the David statue and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, so that if my sons do stumble upon pornography, whether it be explicit or the kind that pops up in advertising every day, they’ll innately know such images are not art, because they’ve been acquainted so closely with beauty.