The Madness of Forced Childhood: Reflections on the Crusade to Sanitize Art and Literature

Peter Pan statue from Kensington garden. The ultimate emblem of arrested development.
Peter Pan. The boy who refused to grow up. Like the adults in today’s post.

Two events happened this weekend that has yet again proven that the world has indeed gone mad. The first is that a private education board of a school in Tallahassee, Florida forced the school’s principal to resign after a class of 6th-graders (11/12-year-olds) saw a picture of Michelangelo’s David for a lesson on Renaissance art. The second is that Agatha Christie–the best-selling writer of all time is the latest to fall in the “woke” crusade to sanitize the past. 

The real issue is that these events have one common cause, and that is a forced, prolonged childhood where the only choices allowed are the choices the authority allows you to have. 

Because apparently, we can’t allow people to think independently for themselves. 

Definition Time! 

Returning to my ever-handy Oxford Dictionary of American English (1999), the definition of a child is “a young human being below the age of puberty.” The general idea is that puberty is when they have at least some faculty for independent thinking and can begin the long training required to a functioning adult. 

So, we have two issues at hand here. The first is that parents (thankfully not many) objected that they weren’t informed beforehand of when Michelangelo’s David was being discussed. Because the statue is naked. Big surprise there, for anyone who’s studied the Renaissance. Or any art for that matter. Naked statues aren’t exactly a new thing. 

The second issue is that Agatha Christie’s novels are somehow “outdated” because the language reflected what was spoken in the early to mimid-1900sThis means it contains the potential to offend someone. And God forbid anyone gets offended by a piece of literature.

Ultimately, what we have here are adults who are so neurotic they can’t comprehend a Renaissance humanist statue isn’t there for sexual gratification and can’t read a word within a historical context without having a complete meltdown. Yes, I just lumped both issues together, because they are the same issue. This isn’t about parents having a choice in their child’s education, or about words being offensive. 

This is about adults who can’t put anything into context and think logical, coherent thoughts without forcing their narrow-mindedness on other people and who obviously haven’t been properly educated themselves. And don’t care

Statue of Michelangelo's David accused of being pornographic by one very ignorant parent.

Classical education today needs to start with the adults. 

There may be schools that provide a classical education for children and teens, but the adults need a dose of it too. Because between the outrage of a Renaissance statue and the outrage of the world’s most successful writer using language that was perfectly normal in her day, it’s the adults that are looking stupid here. 

It’s becoming more and more obvious that future generations need a better fighting chance of survival than what we’re currently giving them. Because what we’re actually teaching them is that if you complain, become a victim, or don’t like something, all you have to do is throw a tantrum and you get what you want. This is not how civilizations are built, it’s how they decline. 

And the classical education of our forbears is what we need to return to in order to rebuilt. People need to be able to think for themselves, reason for themselves, and to tolerate all manner of offense. Because the world is always going to be offensive to someone and if it happens to be you, then you need to learn to tolerate it. 

Have we forgotten Winston’s occupation at the opening of 1984? He rewrote all manner of records so that they matched the latest opinions of the ruling party. This can just as easily be applied to narrow-minded parents as it can virtue-signaling publishers. 

Look at the parents who objected! The most vocal basically called Michelangelo a pornographer. Michelangelo a pornographer? The sheer ignorance in that accusation is astounding. Because a pornographer would have made David fully erect like Priapus. But then, you’d have to know who Priapus was in the first place. And if you don’t even know the attitudes of artists during the Renaissance–arguably one of the best-documented eras in human history–then you definitely aren’t going to know an Ancient Greek deity. 

Granted, that was one parent, which is at least encouraging that some of this nonsense is dying out. 

From left to right, depiction of Miss Marple, Agatha Christie, and Hercule Poirot. All of which are not going to be rewritten because of potentially "offensive" language.

Agatha Christie wrote about justice in a way beyond her time. 

Anyone who’s read any Agatha Christie knows fully well that she wasn’t sheltered, and she wasn’t closed-minded. She explores universal topics in her works which ring true even today, especially where it concerns the nature of justice. Like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle before her, she was interested in how human beings worked. 

And her human beings were of a very definite time and place. It’s a different context than we have today, but that doesn’t make it less relevant. Or more offensive. And we do our forbears a severe injustice by insisting that language be changed to meet our own petty morality.

Without giving anything away, let’s just say that Murder on the Orient Express, is an entire sermon’s worth of human suffering and how injustice to one person creates more crime than the justice system can often solve. Especially where the system is rigged. I would think that was enough to make it relevant to today’s world without any sanitizing efforts. 

Hercule Poirot’s final case too is something of a sermon in allowing yourself to be the sacrificial victim to save someone else. Poirot does what we wouldn’t never think him capable of doing but does so only because the next victim was going to be his long-time friend Hastings. 

“Greater love hath no man,” said Jesus Christ. I think you can finish the quote from there.

Where lies the offense? The language. So we’re going to deface some of the greatest literary works on the planet for the sake of what? Someone’s petty sensibilities? 

If a little word offends thee, have a temper tantrum, post it on TikTok, and watch the money roll in. This is not the behavior of a well-adjusted adult. It’s the behavior of a child. And a badly parented toddler at that. 

Classical education is supposed to make you more resilient. 

Reading Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius is not only good for your education, it’s good for your mental health. These men teach you the art of logical thought, of how to live in the world, and of what is necessary to live in a world full of idiots. 

And there is a lot necessary to live in a world of idiots. Read any of the Hercule Poirot books and you’ll find that out. There’s a reason Christie always referred to the classical works in her own works. She instinctively understood that these were the mark of people who had well-rounded minds and could withstand a difference of opinion without having a meltdown. 

Unlike the majority of adults today, it would seem. 

Many therapists who have turned into Instagram influencers can tell you that emotional resilience and rational thinking are the keys to living with your trauma and minimizing its effects. Thinking, resilient human beings are harder to control and harder to influence, especially if you can sit there and offend them all day long and still have them not react. This is the sign of a truly strong human being: they see what people say about them and it doesn’t affect who or what they are unless they come to the conclusion they were truly in the wrong.

But the only way you are going to get to that point is by exercising your mind and knowing not only the world as it was, in all its bloody glory but being able to see the world as it is and be able to bypass some of the hype

And the fact of the matter is that the only logical intention anyone can possibly have for censoring a Renaissance sculptor or a 20th-century detective writer is you think the people around you are babies. And you want to control the narrative. 

At least in the case of the parents, it was done out of an abundance of concern, however misplaced. 

Prolonged childhood is not necessarily a good thing. 

At some point, children do have to become adults. While that process of “adulting,” as my generation has called it, isn’t exactly easy, there are ways we can better prepare the next generations. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my own experience, it’s ensuring that adults are properly caring for and educating themselves. 

And what I see over and over again are adults who don’t know how to take care of themselves and then make excuses for it. It’s an inherited behavior from all the previous generations that were all “get over it and get on with it.” Yes, that is excellent advice. But if you don’t provide the learning and the tools necessary, like the ones our ancestors had in the days when classical education was the standard, then you are going to end up exactly where we are today. 

Snotty-nosed, spoiled, entitled, idiots who bleat that there’s a wolf behind every historic figure of speech, and every statue, and demand that their betters bow down to them. 

It’s the same behavior as a spoiled brat demanding its parents cater to their every whim instead of learning the tools for taking care of themselves. And we have only ourselves to blame. Our parents and grandparents didn’t stand up and demand that the classical order be maintained. They rolled over and allowed it in the name of tolerance and relevance. 

And, in the process, they have kept their children, their children’s children, and so forth in childhood for a good portion of their adult lives. 

Photo by Josh Hild on

The only way forward is to stand up to ignorance in all its forms. 

The story of the Tallahassee children has a somewhat happy ending. The mayor of Florence invited the entire class (and their parents) to Florence to see the statue for themselves. And then honored the disgraced principal with the invitation to be his guest. Now that is a masterful move that should be applauded and replicated for every piece of art, literature, and culture that comes under fire.

It takes people willing to defend the treasures of the past like Michelangelo, Agatha Christie, Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, Jane Austen, and others by doing the hard thing and meeting the naysayers at their level and then showing them the way out. Because make no mistake, they are trapped in prisons of their own making.

Florence has. Because what “David” represents is worth fighting for. The way out of seeing “David” as pornographic is to experience it in context. Of taking not just the students who didn’t object, but the parents who did and showing them what it means. And in context, “David” is truly astounding. And humbling. You don’t notice the nakedness at all. You notice the majesty of the human form.

My hope is those parents will take him up on it. There are very few places in the world that are more beautiful than Florence and I can’t imagine anything that would inspire or enlighten anyone more. 

If only the same could be done for the Queen of Crime… 

But then, I suppose that’s why bloggers like me, however small, are there in the first place. 

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