By Diane Roberts
Ron DeSantis got a good education at Dunedin High School (under Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, I might add), Yale College, and Harvard Law. He had the chance to encounter a variety of ideas: No one forced him to agree. He was allowed to read a variety of texts, about which he could form his own judgments.
He was free to learn. Today, the students of Florida are not.
DeSantis’ crackdown on thinking has got teachers so spooked, and so emboldened censorious Christian nationalists, that knowledge is being ripped out of public education in this state, even before his ridiculous laws are officially in place.
A parent recently complained to North Shore Elementary, which shows the Disney film “Ruby Bridges” about the little girl who integrated New Orleans schools in 1960, as part of a lesson. Apparently, children might learn that white people can be racist (imagine!). Now the film is banned in Pinellas County schools.
As for the human body, DeSantis plans to rule that teachers cannot educate kids on sexual orientation and gender identity, all the way up to 12th grade.
One of his legislative vassals has filed a bill that would forbid discussion of reproductive health before sixth grade. If a fifth grade girl gets her first period, well, tough. Nice girls don’t menstruate.
As ignorant as possible
Bent on keeping children as ignorant as possible, local school authorities, egged on by those neo-Puritans calling themselves “Moms for Liberty,” are banning books that might suggest that gay and lesbian and trans kids are actual human beings.
This is not just “Don’t Say Gay,” it’s don’t be gay. Don’t be yourself. Be who Ron DeSantis tells you to be.
Florida’s so-called “education commissioner” says school “standards” won’t “incorporate gender ideology or any of these theories in math, social studies, reading, or anything else.”
Would somebody please tell Manny Diaz, Jr. that gender identity is not a theory?
This targeted hatefulness will cause young LGBTQ people extra suffering (and perhaps that’s the aim), but it sure as hell won’t stop them being who they are. It will stigmatize them and give their straight peers permission to abuse them.
In Florida, all kids are equal, but some are more equal than others — not that we want kids reading a dangerous writer like George Orwell.
You know what else is dangerous? Art.
A public charter school in Tallahassee, Tallahassee Classical, paid for by your tax dollars, forced the principal out because she (or somebody) failed to notify parents that a sixth grade Renaissance art class would, in fact, be looking at Renaissance art.
This school had been using the education plan laid out by the Michigan-based Hillsdale College, the ultra-conservative outfit that aided and abetted the destruction of New College. But even Hillsdale couldn’t handle the dumpster fire at Tallahassee Classical and has withdrawn the license for using their curriculum.
Classical board chair Barney Bishop, whose day job is lobbying for oil companies, private prisons, and polluters, isn’t handling all this very well, issuing contradictory denials and referring reporters to stories produced by the purveyors of right-wing conspiracy theories at The Epoch Times.
Bishop, evidently in a state of strong hysterics, gave an interview to Slate in which he yipped, “We don’t have safe spaces for kids so they won’t be offended by a Halloween costume. We don’t use pronouns. We teach them phonics.”
He added, “Parental rights are supreme.”
This school is obviously in dire need of a Drag Queen Story Hour.
Kids were supposed to have a lesson on Michelangelo’s statue of David and Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” scandalously bra-less as she floats in from the sea. David is naked as a jay bird and sports his junk for all the world to see. The parental freak-out brigade did not see beauty or a celebration of the human form. One of them called it “pornography.”
Of course, that will soon be verboten. The Florida Legislature is apparently fine with shooting down children over and over, as long as they don’t see anything that deviates from their 1950s Wonder bread never-never America.
Indeed, to make sure the body count stays nice and high, there’s a pending bill to allow 18 year-olds to buy AR-15s, the gun of choiceat the slaughters in Nashville, Parkland, Uvalde, and Sandy Hook. But the young folks must never lay eyes on men dressed as women (looking at you, Mrs. Doubtfire) or women dressed as men (Viola in Twelfth Night? Busted!)
As HB 1423’s sponsor, Rep. Randy Fine, R-Asinine Acres, says, no minor must encounter “the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”
How about the “lewd exposure” to violence and bigotry? Oh, I forgot: Violence and bigotry is now Florida’s brand.
You have to wonder why all these Republicans are so obsessed with private parts. Nobody’s making them fall in love with a member of the same sex. Nobody is making them wear drag. DeSantis and his pet Legislature will do nothing to help Floridians afford property insurance, slow rocketing rents, address the destruction of our wetlands, or expand access to health care but, by God, children will remain innocent!
Out here in the reality where most of us live, we know that horse is out of the barn and 20 miles down the road. Parents can set controls on their screens, but kids are smart little rats. They get on the internet. They figure out how to see everything they want from “Game of Thrones” to Only Fans to sites that show videos of hideous murders and car crashes and gunshot wounds.
And hey, Republicans, kids already know about penises and vaginas. They know there are gay people, too. And trans people. Even drag queens.
But Republicans talk of little besides naked mythic figures in art. Or menstruation. Or sex — so much sex.
DeSantis and his fellow witchfinders really should consider therapy.
Right-wing parents and Florida Republicans see sex everywhere. Repression? Pure prurience? Latent streak as wide as Lake Okeechobee? Whatever it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if, along with DeSantis’ election cops and his Praetorian Guard, the Legislature authorizes an Iranian-style Morality Police.
Meanwhile at Tallahassee Classical, some teachers and parents have called on the chairman of the board to resign. He refused. Why quit when you’re suddenly the punchline on late-night TV or the butt of jokes all over the civilized world?
That school has lost yet another educator, this time a science teacher who fell foul of some idiot of a parent who complained about “biased” environmental lessons. Seems the teacher had the temerity to teach the science and discuss “the theory of climate change.”
The seas are rising, the water is getting warmer, and the storms stronger, but hey, it’s just a “theory.” Like gravity. Heliocentrism. Evolution.
Anyway, what do teachers know? Barney Bishop sneered at the idea that years of pedagogical training, experience, and mastery of material in the field doesn’t make them more qualified than some random guy screaming in front of a public library.
As Bishop told a reporter, “Teachers are the experts? Teachers have all the knowledge? Are you kidding me? I know lots of teachers that are very good, but to suggest they are the authorities, you’re on better drugs than me.”
Here’s where we are, Florida: Teachers don’t know anything. They’re just babysitters making sure your kids never have to feel uncomfortable, never have to confront history or art or science, never have to think.
How else are we going to raise a new crop of Republican voters?
Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books.
It’s funny how people judge on abortion,gays etc but isn’t your god the one to judge not you and ron is a dictator and a coward who has done nothing to help workers and people here but go after gays and abortion etc are people so dumb you can’t see in front of you
Why do republicans who claim to hate China want to become like them and ban everything they don’t like?
Pierre Tristam says
Must be that Wuhan virus they keep talking about.
Kings English says
You make better Word Salads then Karmie !!!
You’re right. it’s easier to focus people on something to hate or fear than it is to actually step up and do the things that they were elected to do. possibly because all they have is rehetoric and no plan to deal with the issues facing Americans today, Health care, infrastructure, homelessness, poverty, climate change, and food insecurty.
Sir Thomas Goodwin says
Do politicians like Ron DeSantis and his puppets care more about their image than actually helping people? That would be a YES as they often blow minor issues out of proportion to gain attention while neglecting real problems hurting Floridians. One such issue is the high suicide rate among Trans-Youth, which begs the question – is Governor DeSantis responsible for their deaths?
Science, anthropology, and even the the Bible have confirmed that homosexuality has been present throughout human history, making it a natural part of human diversity that includes the LGBTQ+ community. Politicians like Ron DeSantis who spread hate and fear-mongering are going against the inclusive message of God. This is why he outlaws diversity and education.
Timothy Patrick Welch says
In Florida, all kids are equal, but some are more equal than others…
So funny, the line is an adaptation from a communist book referring to pigs. One of my favorites.
Is this lady the devil, or a writer for the communist movement?
A church lady with a well washed brain declared,”… So funny, the line is an adaptation from a communist book referring to pigs. One of my favorites…”
Unsurprisingly for his ilk, TPW, recalls no specifics about, “… One of my favorites…” But feels free to lie all about it:
This is a quotation from George Orwell’s allegorical novel Animal Farm.
Is this church lady the devil, or a writer for the communist movement?
Ray W. says
After considering many, many postings from Timothy Patrick Welch, is it fair to argue that he could benefit from the exercise of intellectual rigor, beginning with the study of what actually constitutes communism, socialism and liberalism. I don’t suggest that Timothy Patrick Welch study true conservatism, as I am concerned that he might become dispirited by learning that today’s version of so-called conservatism is not true conservatism. I do not wish to inflict cognitive dissonance on other commenters where it is not necessary to do so.
I openly concede that during a significant number of my commenting efforts, I start by typing out the framework of a comment and then, after researching my premise, I cancel the effort, because what I thought or remembered was not what the research revealed. I don’t know Timothy Patrick Welch’s age, but as I have aged, I have accepted more and more the importance of rechecking that which I thought was true before sharing it with others. For example, Timothy Patrick Welch might want to internalize the idea that very few of the many significant events in America’s long history were driven by communist ideology. Yes, the Chicago Tribune characterized the Social Security Act as a communist plot to ruin American business. Yes, Eugene V. Debbs pulled down some 6% of the vote in the 1912 presidential election, but he ran as a socialist, not as a communist. Indeed, perhaps the closest we have ever come to enacting into regulatory law a communist ideology was when Nixon froze prices and wages via executive order. Nonetheless, the idea that America is awash in communist policies is deeply and falsely rooted in many so-called conservative talking points. Some commenters pair Marxist thought with anarchism, which is odd because it is impossible to be a Marxist anarchist. Of course, the Antifa movement is neither Marxist nor anarchistic; it is anti-fascist. Marxist thought and fascist thought are far more closely paired, in that both involve centralized governments under totalitarian leaders. I concede that Antifa might be distantly related to anarchistic ideology, in that anarchism is devoted to one form of liberalism (not libertarianism), though it rejects any form of centralized government, and Antifa is opposed to totalitarian government, but proving any connection between these two differing political philosophies requires quite the stretch of imagination.
Thanks for your time. Your words are always worth the time I spend on them.
I hope you and yours are well.
Ray W. says
Thank you for you well wishes. I, too, wish you and your well.
Ray W. says
We both know she is neither the devil nor a writer for the communist movement. She advocates against the current political regime in Florida via hyperbole. You advocate against her via hyperbole. Nothing is new here.
Ray W. says
Upon additional reflection, perhaps Timothy Patrick Welch would benefit from an explanation of the difference between critique and criticism.
I looked up several different approaches to the difference. There are many more. Indeed, there is an entire branch of study devoted to exploring the boundaries of logic and reason, with people spending lifetimes trying to more fully understand and explain how individuals, governments and nations can best resolve disputes.
Here goes my own small, paraphrased attempt:
A critique is a detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory. It is impersonal, constructive, specific, expert, informed and selfless.
An expert may provide a critique. An amateur may provide a review.
As an aside, in many areas where I readily agree that I am not an expert, I characterize my comments as coming from the perspective of a curious student. For example, the parameters of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are far beyond the limits of my knowledge, yet I still recognize injustice and cruelty on both sides and comment of them, but I never present myself as an expert on the subject matter.
A critic is a person who tends too readily to make captious, trivial, or harsh judgments, faultfinder.
The difference between criticism and critique? Criticism seeks to tear a person down, while critique seeks to help them improve. Criticism focuses on the critic’s goals, while critique is motivated by the intention to serve the critiquer’s goals. Criticism is judgmental and focused on placing blame, while critique is descriptive and focused on finding solutions.
George Orwell’s book “Animal Farm” is not a “communist book.” His work is characterized by lucid prose, social criticism, opposition to totalitarianism (which is what Communism is), and support of democratic socialism (which is the type of government in many successful countries such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Costa Rica and others). Democratic socialism is also known as “humane capitalism.” Too bad your Floridian education was so lacking that you don’t understand this.
Ray W. says
Thank you, NonaLisa.
Thank you, your elegant elaboration is a welcome contribution. Your economy of words, too.
Like ketchup on fast food, “communist” flows freely at the tables of the TPWs of this world. Humanist, no doubt, is a synonym for communist, in TPW’s black or white universe.
He has had his say, and we, ours.
Jane E K says
Florida-we’re in BIG trouble. Ronnie needs to go bye-bye, and not to the White House. That’s a fact !!
Jillene Hamill-Wilson says
The dumbing down of AMERICA 🇺🇸 Kids are NOT being taught. I have children in school that have substitutes that don’t teach. Florida is failing our children in SO many ways!😢
I did a tour of Berlin yesterday and was struck by an art installation. It was a glass floor with a room below with white walls and shelving for 20,000 books. All the shelves were empty. It commemorates the burning of 20,000 books at the site by the Nazis.
Couldn’t say it better! It blows my mind how closed minded some folks are and they are the ones who get the upper hand… Unbelievable where this is going. Open your minds, souls, go to the museums, take your children out of the darkness! I feel thankful to people who is publicly standing up to this abuse of power. I am thinking the very same thing…. children get access to pretty much whatever they want these days even if they have no access to interest their friends will. They will see a lot of gross, scary stuff that they really shouldn’t for their well being. A human beautifully represented by a world known artist in their birthday suit now is more threatening? Where is the login here? Thanks again for the article!
Crazy. Porn does not belong in the schools library, especially when the cupcakes complain about Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, because Fudd has a gun.
Sir Thomas Goodwin says
Not any more because Gov. DeSantis and his puppets have made the open carry of guns legal and are working on dropping the age to buy assault rifles to 18.
Open carry “of guns” is not legal in Florida.
The 2022 Florida Statutes (including 2022 Special Session A and 2023 Special Session B)
WEAPONS AND FIREARMS
View Entire Chapter
790.053 Open carrying of weapons.—
(1) Except as otherwise provided by law and in subsection (2), it is unlawful for any person to openly carry on or about his or her person any firearm or electric weapon or device. It is not a violation of this section for a person licensed to carry a concealed firearm as provided in s. 790.06(1), and who is lawfully carrying a firearm in a concealed manner, to briefly and openly display the firearm to the ordinary sight of another person, unless the firearm is intentionally displayed in an angry or threatening manner, not in necessary self-defense.
No porn do you read?
He used to be my neighbor.
How in the world did this guy ever become Governor of Florida???
Oh yea, Florida voters voted for him!
Vote, Vote, Vote him out …..2024!
Sir Thomas Goodwin says
Was he always a hard line dictator type, or did his unbridled ambition in politics bring that behavior out in him?
He never spoke to anyone here….he appeared to think he was above
the neighbors. I knew Republicans who said they wouldn’t vote for him
because he never spoke to them.
I want to know why Ron has not banned the Catholic Church, they have been responsible for more child sexual cases than all of he sexual abuse convicted prisoners in the entire State of Florida.
Pierre Tristam says
Catholicism being the great retardant of civilization (to who else do we owe that miserable period between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance?), it is a protected class in Florida, just as raping children is now routine at our legislature. It’s euphemized under such bills as “don’t say gay” and other means of demolishing equal education, or the 14th Amendment, if you’re keeping score.
I Just Love Flagler Beach says
Yes, here in the free state of Florida our Only freedom is to obediently follow the draconian Desantis hysterics. Or Else.
I have a theory that a lot of the retirees in Florida are here to relax and kick back and enjoy their retirement, not fight culture wars and get their blood pressure elevated. They did their time during the 70s and now they just want to have a drink by the pool. We all need to get that blood pressure up a little bit and tell this guy and his lap dog legislature to knock it off.
Oh, for the love of God, please stop with your hatred and ridicule, Diane; it’s getting old.
Joe D says
Hatred and ridicule?
…..how about….THE TRUTH ….NEVER gets “old”
….thank you Diane!
Nancy N. says
Oh, that’s rich. Pot, meet kettle. Why don’t the GOP and its supporters stop hating LGBTQ people, and then those of us in favor of basic human rights can stop hating the bigots?
@doug. . . what makes me think that if Diane wrote a similar article (filled with “hatred and ridicule”) BUT, aimed at say President Biden. . . you, doug, would be cheering her on? It’s not the “hated and ridicule” you object to, doug, it’s that those words are calling out “your” tribe. You know, the trump cult of fascist Republicans who rule the weak minded FOX devotees using those very same tactics.
What Else Is New says
Thank you Diane. Excellent article. Oh, by the way, I heard Governor Ron DeSantis will soon require women and girls to wear a hijab. Girls will not be allowed to go to school.
Pierre Tristam says
The “voucher” expansion–that euphemism of raising the public treasury for private gain–is a gift to Florida’s innumerable madrassas. My late friend Taylor is rolling in his grave.
We will be a communist state soon. The country will follow. Good job Republicans, keep ruining the country.
Obviously not a Black man says
Does anybody else see ” Smokey Joe’s ” face in this statue. Smokey Joe was the Camel on the cigarette packs. His private parts look just like Smokey Joe’s face
Willy Boy says
The statue of David is armed. Big hand with a sling.
Thank you, Diane, for yet another excellent article. . . pointing out the absolute fascism being crammed down the throats of Florida citizens. The playbook of fascism 101 is being implemented by DeSantis and his cowed Republican legislature right before our very eyes! It begins with curbing and channeling of education using tools such as banning books:
Fascism is growing across our country. Especially through the population primed by the fear and hate blasted over television 24/7 by the far right Murdoch family of FOX.
DeSantis is even more dangerous to democratic principles than trump. . . because DeSantis is smarter than trump and DeSantis knows full well how to work the government machine and the legislative process!
It’s BAD ENOUGH that DeSantis is Florida’s governor. . . he MUST NOT become President! If you love our country and the freedoms you enjoy through our constitution. . . RESIST with every fiber of your being!
Gov. Ronnie Deathsantis, the great illusionist. His ability to distract the attention of the conservative throngs in this state from the very serious problems affecting the average Floridian, and keep them focused on his slight of hand tricks with the legislature to give the taxpayers a few dollars in tax savings while denying them much needed medical care, affordable auto and property insurance is masterful. Yes, keep their minds occupied with made up battles over book bans, fights with Disney, trashing LGBT kids, white-washing America’s history of racial bias, eradicating colleges, tenured professors and classes that don’t conform to the gov’s Nazi like mandates of ideological course instruction even when it flies in the face of factual history, etc. etc. etc. The brainwashed flock of uninformed and misled sheeple in this state seem not to mind, and in fact adore him because he has not yet come for many of them. But beware, ideological despots ALWAYS end up turning on the very ones who have at some point supported and encouraged them. This state is fast circling the drain and turning into a real-life version of the “Handmaid’s Tale” and I fear that too many of his brainwashed followers won’t even know they have been conned by the great illusionist until it is too late.
Again. . . excellent post Skibum! Thank You!
You know, there is some pretty explicit stuff in the Old Testament of the Bible. I wonder when it will be banned.
Wouldn’t y’all like to know what goes on in “Conservative Think Tanks?” After all, they set the stage and fund campaigns. The politicians do as they are told, not by their constituents, but by their donors. That’s completely clear. The constituents are influenced by commercials. The more a name is played as a hero, the more votes they get. The more the politician is vilified, well, you know. Either way, it’s name recognition. Meanwhile, those who are not funded remain unknown, and receive few votes.