Archives for category: Curriculum

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Professor Sam Joeckel was fired by Palm Beach Atlantic University, a private Christian university where he has taught for more than two decades. A student complained that he discussed”racial justice” as a topic for his students to write about.

Joeckel walked into his office one day last week and discovered that his telephone and computer were gone. Apparently a parent complained that he was indoctrinating students by teaching about racism.

Joeckel had an idea something was up because he was called in by administrators to explain his rational for teaching about racial justice. There was also a rumor that he had said something positive about gay people,which the university forbids.

The president of the university, Dr. Debra Schwann, took a personal interest in the case.

The parent who complained had “a reasonable concern about Dr. Joeckel lecturing substantially on the history of racism and racial justice in a class designed to teach writing,” Schwinn wrote in the email.

Afterwards, she said, the dean and provost reached out to Joeckel and “shared their intention to schedule a time to review his syllabus with him so they could understand better the pedagogical rationale for including these lectures in a writing class.”

Later in the email, Schwinn went on to describe PBAU’s approach to teaching about racial issues from a “biblical worldview.”

His course consisted of four units: the one on racial justice, others on comedy and humor, gothic and horror, and gender equality.

Current and former students describe Joeckel as a beloved professor who was well known on campus. Several were confused by Schwinn’s email and the allegation that he was indoctrinating students.

Chrissy Perez, 22, a former honors student at PBAU who graduated in 2022, took many of Joeckel’s honors courses, which she described as a mix of philosophy and history. In one course, Joeckel taught about modern-day social justice movements, including racial justice movements, Perez said, but it was “nothing radical at all.”

“The only thing that was even kind of unique about the unit was that it presented documents that were written by people of color rather than history about people of color written by white people,” she said.

The following parody was written by Sara Stevenson, a retired middle school teacher and librarian in Austin, Texas. She usually writes about the dangers of vouchers, but here she takes a new tack. She calls it “My Modest Proposal.”

She writes:

Randan Steinhauser of Young Americans for Liberty at the February 16 Texas Tribune Panel on School Choice:

“… things the Texas Association of School Boards or other entities are proposing, such as gender pronouns, or Marxist curriculum, there are things that are happening that are causing parents to react… (Laughter)”

After attending the above panel discussion, I read the following excellent parody from master teacher, Liz Meitl, in Kansas. I wished I’d thought of something so clever, so with full credit to Liz, I’ve written my own parody, Texas style.

As a former Texas educator, I read with interest Mayes Middleton’s (R Galveston) 33-page S.B. 176, which outlines the Texas Parent Empowerment Program, offering an ESA (Educational Savings Accounts) of $10,000 of taxpayer money for parents to pay towards tuition to any private or religious school. At a recent Texas Tribune panel on School Choice, Randan Steinhauser’s words (above) resonated so strongly that I’ve made an important decision about my future.

I am the new founder of Austin Marxist Academy. Surely, in what my dad called “The People’s Republic of Austin,” I can find 15 students willing to join my micro-school academy. At $10,000 per student, I can make $150,000 a year.

As a public school teacher with 25 years of experience and a Masters degree, the most I ever made was $55,000. This will almost triple what I made before. And to think of all the poor suckers at my former middle school who still have to teach six classes a day with up to thirty kids per class for a total 180 vs my 15.

Furthermore, I’m elated at all the things I won’t have to do or worry about. No state curriculum, TEKS, to follow; no benchmarks or STAAR tests; no discipline problems or ARDs because I don’t have to accept those students. And if any Special Ed students decide to enroll, I won’t have to follow any accommodations or services required by federal and state law because, upon accepting an ESA, students waive those rights under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) passed in 1975.

As a former librarian, I’m so happy to provide my students with any “pornographic” books they might want to read. Governor Abbott proposes School Choice as a way for parents to escape their children’s “indoctrination” in public schools, but I will be completely free, as will all other private and religious schools, including madrasas, to indoctrinate all I want.

At some point I’ll have to seek some kind of accreditation, but there are so many ways to go about it, and on average, the process takes at least three years. Plus, I’m certain after Texas gives tax breaks to the 305,000 children who already attend private schools, the state will have $3 billion fewer dollars to spend on any oversight of all the new schools popping up in strip malls to take the people’s money.

I’m just so excited to finally be free of all the rules, regulations, and scrutiny of working in a public school. No differentiating lessons or accommodating students with learning differences. I won’t even have to give grades if I don’t want to. And the repetitive, poorly-written pledge of allegiance to the Texas flag we’re required to recite every day? No more.

Come to think of it, S.B. 176 makes no mention of required classroom hours, so my school could just meet half days and take Fridays off. And since I won’t be subjected to the scrutiny of daily attendance measures, upon which per student allotment in Texas public schools is based, my students don’t even have to show up.

I’m so thankful to Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and state Senator Mayes Middleton for prioritizing the Texas Parent Empowerment Program. I can’t wait to put into practice the (slightly revised) Texas TEACHER Empowerment Program. I can be free to discriminate at last.

The GOP is always in search of slogans that rile up their angry base and distract them from the fact that the Republicans have no new ideas or policies to improve anyone’s life, other than tax cuts for the 1%.

Thus, the GOP wants to ban “critical race theory” in the schools, even though it is taught as a graduate course in some law schools, not K-12. They want to ban books about race and gender. Their current slogan is “parental rights,” which means that parents must approve what is taught. “Parental rights” is an insanely slippery slope because parents do not agree. Some white parents want to ban Black history, but other parents—Black and white—don’t. Which parents get to control the curriculum?

The Miami Herald editorial board published an editorial criticizing the far-right extremists of “Moms for Liberty,” who have seized on the issue of “parental rights.”

The Miami Herald editorial board says that “parental rights” is not about “true education. It’s another shot fired in Florida’s culture wars.” This effort to replace the professional judgment of teachers with the grievances of rightwing extremists explains why the state of Florida has thousands of vacancies in teaching.

Perhaps there’s no more potent political strategy — and misnomer — than the appropriation by conservatives of the term “parental rights.”

Gov. DeSantis has announced he is targeting more than a dozen school board members in next year’s elections, including Miami-Dade County’s Luisa Santos, who’s considered liberal. The Republican vision for school boards is “pro-parent” and “pro-kids,” in the words of Republican Party of Florida Chair Christian Ziegler, the Herald reported.

Their narrative goes that to be “pro-parent” you must not want your children exposed to topics like “critical race theory,” or you only support a whitewashed version of this country’s history of racism. Being pro-kid means you don’t want them to learn that there are men who date men, women who date women and people who don’t identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. It means you want school libraries sanitized from content that might offend your sensibilities.

It means that there’s one way to look at America and education and anyone with a different opinion be damned, called names like leftist, communist, anti-American.

It’s as if only groups like Moms for Liberty represent what parents want. The group seems more preoccupied with banning books than concerned that too many kids in our schools cannot read at grade level. The leader of its Miami chapter once called the protests after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police “race wars” and repeated QAnon conspiracy theories on Instagram, Politico reported.

To be a parent, under this definition, means to be a conservative in the most extreme sense of the word. So much for the parents who want teachers to speak freely in the classroom. And what about Black parents who want their children’s life experiences to be reflected in school material and who worry their children will suffer from Florida’s attack on how educators can discuss race? They, too, have a right to recourse when their public schools fail to follow a state mandate that Black history be taught. The Herald reported this month that only 11 of Florida’s 67 school districts have developed a plan for teaching African-American studies, and that DeSantis and the Legislature have in the past rejected requests for more resources.

Very little is said about these parents in the so-called parental-rights movement. But, oh, watch out for teachers and librarians indoctrinating our children!

It’s undeniable that there are many parents who agree with DeSantis, who won reelection in November by a margin unheard of in Florida. Without a doubt, the momentum turned in favor of conservatives after parents of all political stripes became frustrated with school closures and mask mandates during the pandemic. If hindsight is 20-20, closing schools did do some damage, as evidenced by declining student achievement across the country. That has turned the assumption that school officials know best how to educate students on its head. Still, closing schools also likely saved many lives, which should count for something.

However, what should have led to a healthy debate on parental participation in education, unfortunately, has been co-opted by culture wars.

Politics 101 says that anger and frustration are the best motivators. People don’t usually organize to keep things as they are. There’s no organized movement to counter or redefine what parental rights mean. Where are the “Moms for the Truth” or “Dads for the Proper Teaching of History?”

The groups that do exist are getting overshadowed by groups like Moms for Liberty, which DeSantis and the media have propped up as the only valid version of parental dissatisfaction with public education.

DeSantis and the Republican Party aren’t hiding their agenda to transform school boards from local nonpartisan bodies into an arm of partisan politics. Opposition has all but been neutered as the Democratic Party has pretty much given up on Florida.

Without a clear opposing point of view on what parental rights means, the loudest voices will dominate. Soon, local control over K-12 will be replaced with a top-to-bottom remake of education that serves only one type of parent and one — blindered — way of thinking.

The Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers writes in the Oklahoma Gazette about the state superintendent Ryan Walters, who is intent on playing the role of Ron DeSantis and indoctrinating the children of Oklahoma in his own narrow-minded views. Dr. Meyers refers to Ryan Walters as “the Tucker Carlson of education.”

This is a brilliant article. Open the link and read it in full.

Dr. Meyers writes:

Oklahoma’s new state schools superintendent is about to take a desperate situation and make it awful.

His plans for stamping out “wokeness,” critical race theory, and boys using the girl’s bathrooms sounds nothing like a plan to advance education, and more like a platform to become Ron DeSantis Jr. The irony of this culture war approach to education is transparently hypocritical. Walters claims to be all “for academics and against indoctrination,” while making it clear that he alone will decide who gets hired, who gets raises and what gets taught in our schools. That is the very definition of indoctrination.

Beware the zealot who is going to save you from something that may or may not exist and intends to burn down your house to do it. Beware the fearmonger who incites the masses to muzzle free and open discourse about dangerous ideas so that he can make duplicate zealots for even worse ideas. Beware the evangelist who rails against other people’s sins while lining his pocket from two jobs at taxpayers’ expense while vowing to cut wasteful government spending. Ryan Walters makes more than the governor.

Oklahoma is in a death-spiral when it comes to public education but the problem is not “woke” Santas and drag queens. It is an unlivable wage for one of society’s most important jobs with working conditions so abysmal, even dangerous, that teachers are burned out and leaving the profession in droves. Many are moving to Texas where they can earn far more, proving that we have lost the only Red River showdown that truly matters.

Walters’ answer is to impose a hiring and spending freeze, a decision “he alone” can make to fix it (just as Donald Trump put it), and then “he alone” will review every personnel and budget move so that “we” will hire folks who are in lockstep with his goals for our kids. Walters was a teacher, but he needs to review Venn diagrams, where “he” and “we” do not overlap.

In his attack on critical race theory, he has the audacity to quote Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of living in a time when his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character (Walter’s campaign version of the quote is backwards, but hey, even teachers make mistakes).

“Unfortunately,” he continues, “a philosophy that teaches the opposite of this principle is ‘infecting’ our classrooms, and we need to put a stop to it.” CRT, he says, “is a dangerous and racist philosophy, and all it does is divide and characterize entire groups of people solely based on the color of their skin.”

If Walters said this in a classroom, one would hope that some very bright student might raise her hand to point out that characterizing entire groups of people based solely on the color of their skin was the norm before CRT. It is what King was fighting against and gave his life for. What sort of dream world is Walters living in? Or is that letting the whole Fox News crowd off too easily? They know exactly what they are doing.

They pretend that there is no separation of church and state because we were founded as a “Christian nation.” So, taxpayers of any religious persuasion, or no religious persuasion, can be forced to support white, wealthy, private Christian schools, while black and brown children can be warehoused in what’s left of the public schools. Then we can lie to them by pretending that America’s original sin is not systemic racism, but elite universities. We can’t assign books like Killers of the Flower Moon about the atrocities committed by white settlers against the Osage so they could steal their oil. That might make somebody “feel bad.”

Good teachers are what every kid deserves, says Walters, so let’s do merit pay based on student performance. This will guarantee that if you teach in a poor, underperforming school you will never get a raise, but if you teach in Deer Creek, you will end up making a six-figure salary. That will teach even the most idealistic among us to ignore the words of Jesus about helping “the last and the least of these.”

Walters is 100 percent pro-life of course, protecting who he calls “our most vulnerable.” But after they leave the womb, heaven help them if they are not straight white Christians. Their last, best hope to climb out of poverty would be a great public school education or a great teacher and mentor. Meanwhile, there is a mass-exodus of our best teachers, and it is about to accelerate.

As for diversity, equity, and inclusion, we will end up graduating students who don’t even know what those words mean or why they matter. As for the Second Amendment, Walters quotes the corrupt and disgraced NRA, saying that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. This after more than one mass shooting a day since Jan. 1. Truth be known, what stops a good student with a good mind is a bad teacher with an emergency certification….

Than you, Dr. Meyers. You nailed it.

The Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers is pastor of First Congregational Church UCC in Norman and retired senior minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City. He is currently Professor of Public Speaking, and Distinguished Professor of Social Justice Emeritus in the Philosophy Department at Oklahoma City University, and the author of eight books on religion and American culture, the most recent of which is, Saving God from Religion: A Minister’s Search for Faith in a Skeptical Age. Visit

If you open the link, you will see other recent articles by The Rev. Dr. Meyers.

Hannah Natanson of the Washington Post wrote about the rapidly spreading censorship that is casting a pall over many classrooms. State legislatures in red states have passed scores of laws describing in vague terms what teachers are not allowed to teach, even if it is factually accurate. Imagine a teacher told he must not say that slavery was wrong. Teachers comply rather than be fired. Some quit. And people wonder why there are teacher shortages!

She writes:

Excerpts from Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” Passages from Christopher Columbus’s journal describing his brutal treatment of Indigenous peoples. A data set on the New York Police Department’s use of force, analyzed by race.

These are among the items teachers have nixed from their lesson plans this school year and last, as they face pressure from parents worried about political indoctrination and administrators wary of controversy, as well as a spate of new state laws restricting education on race, gender and LGBTQ issues.

“I felt very bleak,” said Lisa Childers, an Arkansas teacher who was forced by an assistant principal, for reasons never stated, into yanking Wollstonecraft’s famous 1792 polemic from her high school English class in 2021.

The quiet censorship comes as debates over whether and how to instruct children about race, racism, U.S. history, gender identity and sexuality inflame politics and consume the nation. These fights, which have already generated at least 64 state laws reshaping what children can learn and do at school, are likely to intensify ahead of the 2024 presidential election. At the same time, an ascendant parents’ rights movement born of the pandemic is seeking — and winning — greater control over how schools select, evaluate and offer children access to both classroom lessons and library books.

In response, teachers are changing how they teach.

A study published by the Rand Corp. in January found that nearly one-quarter of a nationally representative sample of 8,000 English, math and science teachers reported revising their instructional materials to limit or eliminate discussions of race and gender. Educators most commonly blamed parents and families for the shift, according to the Rand study.

The Washington Post asked teachers across the country about how and why they are changing the materials, concepts and lessons they use in the classroom, garnering responses from dozens of educators in 20 states.

Here are six things some teachers aren’t teaching anymore.

“Slavery Is Wrong”

Greg Wickenkamp began reevaluating how he teaches eighth-grade social studies in June 2021, when a new Iowa law barred educators from teaching “that the United States of America and the state of Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.”

Wickenkamp did not understand what this legislation, which he felt was vaguely worded, meant for his pedagogy. Could he still use the youth edition of “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States”? Should he stay away from Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” especially as Kendi came under attack from conservative politicians?

That fall, Wickenkamp repeatedly sought clarification from the Fairfield Community School District about what he could say in class, according to emails obtained by The Post. He sent detailed lists of what he was teaching and what he planned to teach and asked for formal approval, drawing little response. At the same time, Wickenkamp was fielding unhappy emails and social media posts from parents who disliked his enforcement of the district’s masking policy and his use of Reynolds and Kendi’s text. A local politician alleged that Wickenkamp was teaching children critical race theory, an academic framework that explores systemic racism in the United States and a term that has become conservatives’ catchall for instruction on race they view as politically motivated.

Finally, on Feb. 8, 2022, at 4:05 p.m., Wickenkamp scored a Zoom meeting with Superintendent Laurie Noll. He asked the question he felt lay at the heart of critiques of his curriculum. “Knowing that I should stick to the facts, and knowing that to say ‘Slavery was wrong,’ that’s not a fact, that’s a stance,” Wickenkamp said, “is it acceptable for me to teach students that slavery was wrong?”

Noll nodded her head, affirming that saying “slavery was wrong” counts as a “stance.”

“We had people that were slaves within our state,” Noll said, according to a video of the meeting obtained by The Post. “We’re not supposed to say to [students], ‘How does that make you feel?’ We can’t — or, ‘Does that make you feel bad?’ We’re not to do that part of it.”She continued: “To say ‘Is slavery wrong?’ — I really need to delve into it to see is that part of what we can or cannot say. And I don’t know that, Greg, because I just don’t have that. So I need to know more on that side.”

As Wickenkamp raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips, she added, “I’m sorry, on that part.”Wickenkamp left the Zoom call. At the close of the year, he left the teaching profession.

Contacted for comment, Noll wrote in a statement that “the district provided support to Greg with content through a neighboring school district social studies department head.” She did not answer a question asking whether she thinks teachers should be permitted to tell children that slavery was wrong.

The Republican Party hopes to establish itself as the champion of “parental rights.” They have aligned themselves with “Moms for Liberty,” “Parents Defending Education,” and other well-funded (Koch, Walton) astroturf groups demanding book banning, censorship of courses about race and gender, and the “right” of parents to disrupt school board meetings, control the curriculum, and harass teachers.

At the worst points of the pandemic, these groups emerged to oppose masks and vaccinations. Their agenda grew from there to opposing critical race theory (even when they can’t define it), sex education, and anything that might make some children uncomfortable.

In September 2021, the National School Boards Association sent a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Attorney General Merrick Garland seeking help and advice for school boards that were besieged and threatened by angry, organized demonstrations, by so-called Proud Boys, and assorted malingerers.

State school board associations in red states were outraged by the NSBA letter, and some canceled their membership in the nonpartisan NSBA (I don’t know whether they have since rejoined). The national group withdrew the letter, but the fight goes on.

Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the incendiary chair of the House Judisry Committee, has issued subpoenas to former NSBA officials as part of his investigation of “mistreatment” of parents protesting “woke” policies. I understand that he has the power to oversee government action, but I don’t understand how he can investigate the NSBA, a private organization concerned about threats of violence to its members.

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans issued another series of subpoenas Monday as part of an ongoing investigation into what they contend is the mistreatment of parents who protested “woke” school board policies.

Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, demanded documents and testimony from three individuals, including the former heads of the National School Boards Association, for “requesting federal law enforcement assistance to target parents voicing concerns at local school board meetings.”

The Ohio Republican is flexing his newly appointed subpoena power to probe a September 2021 letter that the nonprofit representing U.S. school boards sent to the Biden administration. The letter warned of rising threats against school board members over coronavirus restrictions and teaching around race.

The letter to the Justice Department, signed by Chip Slaven, then the interim executive director of the NSBA, and Viola Garcia, then the president of the NSBA, outlined more than 20 instances of threats, harassment, disruption and acts of intimidation in California, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio and other states.

Jordan, who also chairs a new subcommittee dedicated to what Republicans assert is the “weaponization” of government, has said that as a result of the letter, the Justice Department designated “a specific threat tag” for school board-related threats and opened investigations “into parents simply for speaking out on behalf of their children.” Those allegation are outlined in a GOP report released in November.

The NSBA has repeatedly stated that the letter’s focus was on the issue of violence and threats, not protests from parents….

It is all part of the Republican Party’s larger effort to turn the issue of ”parents’ rights” into a rallying cry, harnessing the frustration with schools that reached a boiling point during the pandemic when educators grappled with masking requirements, closures and remote learning for children.

Jim Jordan is a fervent Trumper and a fervent election denier. He was the first chair of the House Freedom Caucus, its most rightwing members. He’s the guy who is seldom seen wearing a jacket. He can be counted on to weaponize his new power to harass his political enemies.

I received the following notice from Dr. Angela Valenzuela of the University of Texas. She has written extensively about diversity, exclusion, inclusion, equity, and history. Her original letter was sent to executives at the American Educational Research Association. She shared it with me, and I am sharing it with you.

As I am sure everybody knows, we are in the throes of a major fight here in Texas over DEI, academic freedom, CRT in higher education, tenure, and so much more and these folks are loaded with hubris—like they can just roll right over us. That’s what DeSantis is demonstrating. So I and others have been working for close to a year now in trying to unite our communities. We are doing this through an organization we’ve named, Black Brown Dialogues on Policy and now, so that we don’t become Florida by uniting as black and brown humanity. Intersectional. Intergenerational. Civil rights, Gen Z inclusive, white allies—and all people of good conscience. This is the Beloved Community, El Pueblo Amado.I just love how it sounds in Spanish.

There’s more that unites than divides us. We’ll have the program up soon, as well, on our website.

Next Saturday, March 11, BBDP is organizing a Virtual Town Hall on DEI and Ethnic Studies and all are welcome to attend:

MEDIA ADVISORY: Black Brown Dialogues on Policy hosts Virtual Town Hall—Sat. March 11, 2023 from 10:00 AM—4:30PM CST

We get going at 10AM CST and you can view it and post questions from our Facebook page:

We hope to have the Virtual Town Hall program up on our website soon.

AERA luminaries Drs. Francesca Lopez, Christine Sleeter, Kevin Kumashiro and Stella Flores are part of the program. Texas legislators and two Gen Z panels, too.

Media industry professionals are producing it and we are using this Virtual Town Hall as an informational opportunity and organizing tool through which to, on the one hand, pass Ethnic Studies legislation (HB 45), and on the other, defeat terrible bills like those listed below.

HB 45 is about Ethnic Studies. It doesn’t make ES a requirement. Rather, it creates a pathway to a high school diploma through the taking of either Mexican American or African American Studies, courses that are currently electives in state policy at the high school level. Native American Studies and Asian American Studies were “passed,” along with the other two courses in 2018. I and so many others were involved in its passage. And the SBOE has waited for a more conservative board to get in to decide whether and when to align Native American Studies and Asian American Studies to state standards. They’re foot dragging. What we need is a law, or HB 45.

Check out these horrible bills.

The specific bills represent an attack on DEI in higher education: House Bill 1006, House Bill 1607, and House Bill 1046. I heard there was one more, too. We can’t keep up. But these are sufficiently draconian to be concerned.

House Bill 1006 seeks to “prohibit: (A) the funding, promotion, sponsorship, or support of: (i) any office of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and (ii) any office that funds, promotes, sponsors, or supports an initiative or formulation of diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond what is necessary to uphold the equal protection of the lawsunder the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

House Bill 1607 is the higher education analogue to Senate Bill 3 last legislative session that some have dubbed the “Texas anti-CRT” bill, House Bill 1006.

HB 1046 seeks to prohibit what they’re calling “political tests” in higher education utilized in hiring decisions or in student admissions as a condition of employment, promotion, or admission, to identify a commitment to or make a statement of personal belief supporting any specific partisan, political, or ideological set of beliefs, including an ideology or movement that promotes the differential treatment of any individual or group based on race or ethnicity.

It will really make a difference if folks from all over the country attend to convey solidarity with our cause. Public statements, letters to Governor Greg Abbott and the Lt. Governor Dan Patrick in defense of Ethnic Studies, CRT, and DEI are also much appreciated.

I’m sure I missed some folks, so apologies if I left you out. We have a lot on our plates at the moment.

Hasta pronto! Buenas noches. May all have a blessed week.

Peace / paz,

Angela Valenzuela, Ph.D.

Co-founder and convener

Black Brown Dialogues on Policy

I am going to do something unusual with this topic, the topic being Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ bold and disgusting effort to take control of what may and may not be taught in the schools of Florida.

I wrote this post. It will be followed by one written by Mercedes Schneider. We don’t disagree, but we provide different content. Read them both and add your thoughts.

In Florida, a “controversial topic” is any concept that governor Ron DeSantis doesn’t like. This is what he calls “freedom.” Schools are not free to teach anything he dislikes. Last week, the Florida Department of Education told districts to provide detailed information about the books and materials they were using to teach topics that offend DeSantis.

To readers, I apologize for writing so much about this tinpot dictator. But the reality is that he is leading the way towards purging the schools of content that would be standard fare in many other states, and other red states are following his lead.

The Miami-Herald reports:

The Florida Department of Education this week told school districts to produce detailed information about the programs and materials they use to address some of the state’s most hotly debated subjects.

In an email delivered late Tuesday, the department instructed superintendents to fill out a 34-question survey identifying titles of books and programs they have relating to sex education, social-emotional learning, culturally relevant teaching and diversity, and equity and inclusion, among other topics. It asked for specifics for student courses and employee training. The department requested names and examples from district and charter schools. And it gave the districts until Monday to respond. “It sounds very much like what they have done to the state university system,” said Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning.

In recent months, the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked universities and colleges to provide information about their work in diversity, equity and inclusion, and related to gender-affirming care.

DeSantis followed those requests with speeches criticizing many of the concepts and calling on the Legislature to end spending for such items. College presidents quickly announced they would end diversity programs. Legislation mirroring the governor’s agenda soon followed.

“What concerns me about the questions is they are all the hot-button topics and issues that are in the news,” Browning said, noting that the department did not explain its request. “What is it that they’re looking for?”

The department did not respond to calls and emails seeking added information. Superintendents across Florida said their staffs are working to submit all the items, which include uploaded examples in addition to lists of titles and data about the percentages of schools that use the materials and programs.

A spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Public Schools said Friday “district staff is currently in the process of compiling responses to the survey.” The Broward school district did not immediately respond to the Herald’s query. I

“We’ve never had to get this in-depth before,” said Bay County Superintendent Bill Husfelt, president of the state superintendents association. He suggested that politically involved parent and community groups such as Moms for Liberty have played a part in the rising demand for specifics about what books, curriculum and other materials the schools use. Moms for Liberty chapters across Florida have pressed school districts to remove books they claim contain pornography or other materials harmful to minors. The organization’s co-founders recently sat with DeSantis and other Republican officials to identify 14 sitting school board members statewide to target for removal in the 2024 elections, including Miami-Dade School Board member Luisa Santos.

“Politics has always been like this,” said Husfelt, who has led his North Florida district for 15 years. “But I don’t know that I’ve ever seen public education as involved as it is right now.”

Browning said he found it frustrating that the state appears to be targeting approaches such as positive behavior interventions and trauma-informed care, while at the same time requiring schools to address students’ mental health needs. “It seems like they are saying, ‘Do it, but you can’t use this and you can’t use that,’ ” he said.

“My question would be, ‘What is it you want me to use?’ There is nothing inherently evil in any of this stuff, in any of these topics that they are wanting information on.”

The state previously has made clear its disdain for social-emotional learning and culturally relevant teaching, banning it from math and social studies textbooks as they come up for adoption. It also has restricted lessons about human growth and development, which includes sex education.

Social-emotional learning is a strategy that aims to help students manage their emotions and develop empathy, among other traits. The state promoted it as a way to keep students safe after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Culturally relevant teaching attempts to present lessons in ways that better resonate with students of color. It was developed with the recognition that the teaching force in public schools is predominantly white while the majority of students are from other groups. In Florida, 57% of public school students are Black or Hispanic.

Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, said Floridians should recognize that the state’s efforts to remove such concepts from schools is “messing with kids.”

“Kids learn best when they feel safe, when they feel secure, when they have a connection to their teacher,” Spar said. “When you hear the governor talking about how we shouldn’t do [social-emotional learning] or culturally responsive teaching, what we’re saying is, we shouldn’t teach kids the way they learn.”

While many of the state’s survey questions relate to approaches that DeSantis and others have reviled, others focus on models that they have applauded. For instance, the survey asks about the use of the “whole child approach,” which has been embraced by classical education schools such as those supported by Hillsdale College in Michigan.

Browning expected the survey would be a precursor to legislation. “Isn’t everything?” he said.

Read more at:

Mercedes Schneider writes here about Governor Ron DeSantis’s shameless moves to wipe out courses in K-12 and in higher education that he does not like. He is leading an audacious attack on academic freedom that has not been seen in this country since the early 1950s during the Joe McCarthy era. Then the enemy was Communism, now it is fear of those who want to investigate the roots and practices of social and political injustice.

Such people, to DeSantis, are enemies of the social order. They are WOKE, awake to inequity; they make students want to change the status quo. They cannot be tolerated. Their ideas must be eliminated. DeSantis is leading this purge, he says, to protect “freedom.” The language is Orwellian. He means to stamp out the freedom to teach and learn while boasting of his love of freedom.

In addition, he wants to transfer the power to hire new faculty from the faculty to college presidents, whom he appoints. The entire state university would become subservient to his authoritarian impulses.

Schneider describes what is happening, mostly under the radar, as DeSantis wages war on freedom of inquiry:

The current ultra-conservative education platform seeks to stifle all formal or informal discussion of diversity, equity, or inclusion in public K12 and postsecondary education, with Florida apparently leading such efforts.

Though as of yet not a formally-declared 2024 candidate, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis is in the GOP polls as an assumed and formidible GOP presidential primary candidate.

DeSantis, and the Florida legislature are working hard to exercise power over what courses or majors could exist in Florida universities, with legislative efforts to kill womens and gender studies and, as the Insider notes, “gut” a variety of majors. Meanwhile, the February 24, 2023, Tampa Bay Times reports that the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) “told school districts to produce detailed information about the programs and materials they use to address some of the state’s most hotly debated subjects.” Continuing:

In an email delivered late Tuesday, the department instructed superintendents to fill out a 34-question survey identifying titles of books and programs they have relating to sex education, social-emotional learning, culturally relevant teaching and diversity, and equity and inclusion, among other topics. It asked for specifics for student courses and employee training.

The department requested names and examples from district and charter schools.

FDOE wants the information by Monday, February 27, 2023, though it did not offer any reason.

The FDOE request came on the same day that Florida HB 999 was filed by Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola). The bill would remove faculty input from the hiring process; prohibit hiring based on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); remove majors and minors related to Critical Race Theory, gender studies or intersectionailty.

This rewrite of the previous bill seeks to remove any mention of “politics,” including striking through statements such as, “Motivate students throughout the Florida State University to become aware of the significance of government and civic engagement at all levels and politics in general”; “Provide students with an opportunity to be politically active and civically engaged”, and “Nurture a greater awareness of and passion for public service and politics.”

DeSantis does not want to encourage students to become engaged in civic action. He wants to nurture complacence and passivity “in this best of all possible worlds.

Please open her post to read the gory details of this audacious attempt to put the governor of the state in charge of whatever is taught in his state.

What DeSantis is doing is not conservative. It is radical. It is authoritarian. He shows no respect for critical thinking or debate. He is unwilling to allow students to learn anything he does not like. His desire for control of what can be taught or learned is dangerous to democracy. He is attempting to establish a dictatorship and has a super-majority of both houses in the legislature who will give him whatever he wants.

Liz Meitl is a public school teacher in Kansas. She usually testifies against vouchers and other forms of privatization, but she suddenly realized what she could do if the Kansas legislature passes a voucher bill. She would open a completely unregulated school to do what the rightwingers fear most!

She wrote in The Kansas Reflector:


Liz Meitl

Liz Meitl testifies Feb. 6, 2023, before the House K-12 Education Budget Committee regarding legislation that would create vouchers for unregulated, unaccreddited private schools. GOP education proposals could allow for schools to turn into indoctrination mills, Meitl writes. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from Kansas Legislature YouTube channel)

Two years ago I wrote an opinion piece for the Kansas Reflector in which I argued that the Legislature should be celebrating Kansas public schools, rather than trying to tear them apart through voucher plans.

In the two years since, the fight has been ongoing, with no break in the Legislature’s efforts to destroy public education. This year’s session has brought us a tidal wave of proposed legislation that would divert hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools to private schools.

The legislation has shifted, though. Now it’s not just for low-income students, or for already established private schools.

The new legislation allows any kid to access the funds, and it allows anybody to set up a school. And so I have had an entirely serious change of heart. I am in no way taking a ridiculous idea to its logical extreme, so just put that out of your mind right now.

Let me explain.

Bills in the House and Senate that would allow families to use state money to send their kids to private schools — specifically House Bill 2218 — represent an enormous opportunity for Kansas educators. This legislation will allow Kansas to be a beacon to the rest of the country. Just as the world watched on Aug. 2nd as Kansans defeated the anti-choice agenda, the world can now watch as our liberal, woke educators are freed from the bonds of bureaucratic oversight and local, state and federal regulations.

Other educators, like me, will jump at the chance to open our own micro-schools and enact our own curricular agendas. We will be able to recruit the students we want to teach. We will no longer be asked to serve all students equitably, but instead we can create small, insular communities of learners, focused on the topics we feel are most valuable.

This is an enormous opportunity for all Kansas teachers who are tired of being subject to democratically elected school boards’ rules and out-of-touch federal lawmakers’ regulations.

When I think about opening my own school, I can’t help but be thrilled at the potential freedom. I will have the opportunity to teach English classes rooted in critical race theory. I know many legislators think we teach CRT now, but really there is so much oversight and collaboration that I am hamstrung and forced to teach lessons based on “pedagogical research” and “student data.”

This legislation will allow me to teach what many of the conservatives assumed I most want to teach: a leftist agenda focused on my Marxist, atheist ideology.

I can create a social studies class anchored in the history of white people as oppressors and colonizers. I can develop a rich, interdisciplinary course of study in which we study the benefits of recreational marijuana and psilocybin, and we can take scientific field trips to grow houses and dispensaries. My math classes will focus on the benefits of a socialist economy, and I will do my best to cultivate highly educated, intrinsically motivated radicals.

Further, work with my students will be based on a feelings-first curriculum. Their social and emotional well-being will drive instruction. I recognize legislators’ intent, that parents need to choose educational environments, so I will invite parents to provide tokens of comfort from home and I will use them to decorate our classroom.

Without the burden of state-mandated assessments weighing me down, and free from any governmental oversight, I will have the bandwidth to focus on supporting students’ identities. That will be especially rewarding for me and my LGBTQIA students.

In addition to the curricular and practical freedoms offered, this legislation creates an enormous financial opportunity. I know, without a doubt, that I can recruit 21 students to attend my little school. I have a big basement, and the materials will come from my own head (and heart), so I will have almost no overhead.

This means that I will make somewhere around $100,000 annually, based on current base state aid per student. This is substantially more than I earn now, and I will be responsible for many fewer students. It is clearly a financial windfall for any motivated adult.

In conclusion, these bills are a giant win for Kansas educators and youths. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.

The total lack of oversight and regulation, combined with the financial incentives, create an almost irresistible opportunity for those of us with an agenda for our state’s future. Teachers’ dedication to Kansas’s public schools and serving every student will certainly mean almost nothing when we consider the possibilities offered via this legislation.


Liz Meitl is a public school teacher in USD 500, and her two children attend Kansas public schools. Through its opinion section, Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.