Actually, it is a big deal

Well it's only a wee wee, so what's the big deal?

It's only a wee wee, so what's all the fuss?

It's only a wee wee and everyone's got one

There's better things to discuss.

— " It's only a Wee-Wee"

This particular fuss swirls around Principal Jeff Schlecht's decision to remove a panel of student art from the Ashland High School quad.

It was the left edge of a four-panel series that grafts a Harry Potter motif onto Michelangelo's classic, "Creation of Adam."

You know the one: God on the right side, nestled by cherubs and looking just like Charlton Heston at the end of The Ten Commandments, is stretching His long forefinger toward Adam's.

A nude Adam is lounging on the left side looking a little bored, his finger loosely extended to receive the Divine transmission.

And below Adam's torso, resting on a muscular thigh, in plain sight of the countless visitors who have strained their necks beneath the original on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, there it is: a wee wee.

The Harry Potterized version didn't have that unobstructed view.

The four students who painted it, probably trying to calibrate their work for a community of mixed values, set on Adam's lap a strategically placed Golden Snitch (I didn't know what that was either, because I'm one of the ten dozen people who haven't yet read the Potter series, but never mind).

That didn't do the trick for Principal Schlecht, who told the artists to find a bigger shield.

Begin fuss.

"Ain't it just like a goddie to object to a depiction of a nude human body?" said one reader on the Tidings Web site. "That's right, people: The genitals your creator gave you are evil! What the hell does that say about the creator who is also supposed to be perfect? And this figure isn't even nude! AND it's a copy of a MICHELANGELO showing GOD'S OWN WORK!"

"Here's a concept," another wrote. "Maybe if we taught kids to love their bodies and respect them for the marvels of engineering that they are ... maybe we'd see a lot of our social problems cured or ameliorated."

Others took the decision in stride.

"Sounds like some artsy high schoolers (and their parents) needed some attention and the DT gave it to them," wrote one. "Nothing like a controversy to sell papers."

And another: "Mr. Schlecht is merely following the guidelines of the school district. If you don't agree with it, get your kids out of the public school system."

The mix of reactions supports Principal Schlecht's main point. "This is a public high school and I have to represent all perspectives in grades nine through 12," he told the Tidings. " My interpretation is that it was inappropriate."

We could make this about Jeff Schlecht personally, if we wanted to miss the point. Anyone who thinks decisions like this are easy in Ashland has never stood in his shoes. He's not the one who created a culture where wee-wees seem to make us crazy.

I can't argue with him at all for trying to find a course that offends as few parents, citizens and taxpayers as possible. That's a reasonable guideline.

Instead let's talk about what's offensive. We're to assume that for some people (and I'd actually like to know how many), it's the image of partially-screened genitalia in the high school quad. I am not among them.

Let me be clearer: I am completely baffled, 100 percent clueless, in the face of the notion that parts of the human body are obscene.

I understand &

barely &

why some are offended by suggestive sexuality, but if a visiting Martian asked me why images of the penis or vagina or female breast are banned from public display, I'd stammer like an idiot.

What offends me is the official delivery of an unmistakable message to our kids: as much as we say we want you to be creative and think for yourselves, you absolutely have to color within some rigid lines.

And those lines are where they are &

not for reasons we can justify &

but because some people who swear they're right say they have to be there, and they might get really ugly with us if we don't do what they say.

Educate kids with messages like this and you could end up with a nation that sits back watching its leaders, in the name of Good's crusade against Evil, trample international law and constitutional liberties. It could happen, I swear.

So don't bother telling school officials to ignore the fact that the artwork offends some people, because that tells them not to do their job.

What makes more sense, with the conflict reportedly heading to the Superintendent's office to resolve, is to speak out if you're offended by what the panel's disappearance tells our kids.

The fact that you may not have Scripture to quote doesn't reduce your standing.

If this issue is going to be settled by weighing who's offended by what &

not how we'd do it in a perfect world, perhaps, but the world's not perfect &

you might want to give public voice to what offends you.

A Talk Newspaper Calendar Note: The Ashland Coalition, a group working hard for a healthier community, invites you to a public conversation "to promote a positive political process, to engage sustainable community participation, and to inspire collaboration."

It takes place this Wednesday, April 30, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Historic Armory. See you there?

is the author of As If We Were Grownups, Forest Blood and the new novel Unafraid (with excerpts at ).

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