A Dolly Parton Song and Michelangelo’s ‘David’ Are Now in the Crosshairs of Conservative Schools

These bad-faith grievances, under the guise of "protecting" kids from "controversial" content, are all just reactionary and insipid.

A Dolly Parton Song and Michelangelo’s ‘David’ Are Now in the Crosshairs of Conservative Schools
Photo:ABC Photo Archives / Leemage (Getty Images)

Our nation appears to be suffering from an acute art attack. Please forgive the pun, but laughter is the only medicine keeping me from having a fatal aneurysm while reading about a string of bad faith temper tantrums parents, school administrators, and politicians are having over what’s “appropriate” to teach in school settings.

After a Florida school threw a fit last week over Michelangelo’s classic nude sculpture David being shown to a sixth grade class, a school board in Waukesha, Wisconsin, has banned a first grade class from singing Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus’ song “Rainbowland” because it’s too “controversial” (read: gay-adjacent).

Melissa Tempel, a first grade teacher at Heyer Elementary, was surprised to learn that the administration at her school vetoed her choice of song for the spring concert. She tweeted that her students had been really excited to cover the duet between Cyrus and her godmother, the Queen of Country, before the school mysteriously vetoed it. The lyrics, which feel fully age-appropriate, are as follows: “Wouldn’t it be nice to live in paradise / Where we’re free to be exactly who we are / Let’s all dig down deep inside/ Brush the judgment and fear aside.” God forbid a kid is given the sick and twisted message to be confident in themselves.

Kelly Piacsek, the Waukesha school board’s president, released a statement to Vice that claimed the song “could be deemed controversial.” Sarah Schindler, a parent of a student in Tempel’s first grade class, noted the recent “conservative flip” of the school board to the Los Angeles Times. She also mused that perhaps Cyrus’ sexually laden public image might be the reason behind the ban. Perhaps another reason for the censure is that both Cyrus and Parton have been vocal in their support of drag, the debate du jour for conservative losers.

This incident echoes what occurred in Tallahassee, Florida, earlier this month, where a school principal stepped down after not alerting parents that their sixth grade students were to be shown an image of David in class. It’s all an outgrowth of the same fear-mongering fueling statewide book bans and curriculum overhauls to erase Black history.

A chairperson of Tallahassee Classical School told NPR, “Parents are entitled to decide whether any topic, any subject, any use of particular sensitive words are going to be discussed in the classroom. If they don’t feel that it’s appropriate for the age of their child, they’re entitled to make that decision.”

Of course, both of these recent incidents stink of cultural illiteracy and reveal much more about the outraged mobs than the art in question. Naked bodies immediately being viewed as pornographic and as advocating for bareback gay sex are such outrageously inflated reactions, it’s hard to take them seriously. But school districts and administrations are, in fact, taking them seriously, which is terrifying.

If progressives roll over on this culture war, American schools are eventually just going to be hyperbaric chambers where a Chatgpt bot teaches kids to count to 100 or whatever. In the meantime, stream “Rainbowland” by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus. It’s a great song.

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