Archives for category: Florida

Beth L. Matters on is a college professor in Florida. She describes how she will respond to DeSantis’ censorship laws: She will ignore them.

She writes:

In a couple of weeks, I’ll walk back into my college classroom and continue my second decade of teaching at one of Florida’s universities. Despite the recently passed HB 7 Amendment (Stop WOKE Act), I won’t be adjusting my syllabi to remove readings or discussions that make students “uncomfortable,” and I won’t pretend that systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and other forms of oppression do not exist. I will not “whitewash” our country’s history or minimize the challenges and oppression that so many still experience, especially those who are women and/or members of the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities.

Instead, I will do what I have always done. I will select the creative work of writers who belong to all sorts of communities, and I will require students to read their stories and discuss the work and their themes. Some of those themes are difficult and may make many of us uncomfortable, no matter how we identify or what community we’re in….

I purposefully select work by members of marginalized communities, because many of my students have not yet heard these voices… and many of my students belong to these communities. Recently, among other work, my students read, “Heavy: An American Memoir″ by Kiese Laymon and poems by Danez Smith. Both of these authors address race, class, whiteness, sexuality, politics, family and body image. Smith’s work also addresses homophobia and police brutality, and other topics that are “uncomfortable.”

What if every teacher in Florida did the same? They can’t arrest everyone.

Massive resistance.

So now we see the consequences of DeSantis’ fabricated culture war against African-American history. Too much—or any—attention to racism runs afoul of Florida’s STOP WOKE law. One school decided to “stop woke” by ordering the teacher to remove pictures of Black heroes. The teacher quit. Escambia County, where this happened, has a severe teacher shortage.

An Escambia County public school teacher resigned this week over what he characterized as racist behavior by a school district employee.

The teacher, Michael James, emailed a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith in which he wrote that a district employee removed pictures of historic Black American heroes from his classroom walls, citing the images as being “age inappropriate.”

Images that were removed from the bulletin board at O.J. Semmes Elementary School included depictions of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver, James said.

District concludes its investigation:Escambia school district refutes teacher’s account of removal of Black leaders’ photos

“It really floored me,” James told the News Journal. “I’ve been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that.”

James chose the board’s theme because the majority of the students and the residents in the neighborhoods that surround O.J. Semmes are Black, and he wanted to motivate his students with inspirational leaders they could easily look up to and see themselves.

James, 61, of Daphne, Alabama [who is white], sent his letter to the governor Monday night. He officially resigned from his position as an exceptional student education teacher at O.J. Semmes Elementary School on Tuesday morning.

His resignation came in the midst of a national teacher shortage, a day before the start of the new school year Wednesday.

Superintendent Smith said teachers are permitted to decorate their classrooms with educational materials and he was unaware of any policies that would prohibit a teacher from displaying pictures of inspirational American heroes on their walls.

Smith said a full investigation of the incident, which he called an “anomaly,” has been launched.

Charlie Crist, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor to challenge DeSantis in November, blamed the governor’s “culture wars” for politicizing Florida’s public schools.

The district concluded its investigation and disputed the teacher’s account. It said that two staff members—including a “behavior analyst”— came to help Mr. James set up his classroom. They noticed that he had pictures of “black luminaries” in the front of the room when he should have installed a list of state standards instead.

The behavior analyst told James that the bulletin board directly behind his teaching area had to be dedicated to state-required curricular materials that he would require to teach his specific students, according to the district.

“To be clear, due to the nature of this specific population of students, it is critical the instructional materials be within their line of sight during instruction, for the purposes of student focus and retention,” read the district’s statement.

“The Behavior Analyst observed his bulletin board was ‘Awesome,’ because of the history tied to it, but the language and reading levels on the posters were too complex for this particular group of students,” the statement said.

Mr. James said that the district’s account was malarkey.

Florida professors are feeling the chilling effect of Ron DeSantis’ gag orders and bans on teaching about race and gender. DeSantis will not stop his crusade for censorship in K-12. Higher education knows they are his targets as well. DeSantis has an authoritarian mindset and will not be satisfied until he has squelched all teaching, study, and research into racism and gender. When does the book-burning begin?

The Miami Herald reported:

Florida university professors are facing unprecedented challenges as a spate of new laws could soon crack down on research, discourse on race and gender identity and create an environment in which employees feel their political beliefs are being scrutinized at the risk of losing tenure.

The measures are backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-led Legislature and are seen as just the start by some educators. Those concerns have been fueled by reports that DeSantis had drafted even more attempts to rewrite laws governing public higher education, including stripping university presidents of the ability to hire professors.

The underlying message from eight professors from four public universities across the state interviewed by the Miami Herald is this: It is not easy to be an educator in Florida. Two professors who spoke to the Herald declined to be identified out of their concern for retribution.

It isn’t just history or politics professors who are worried about the chilling effects of restrictions on academia as they head back to class later this month, it appears to ripple through many academic disciplines. Some professors even suggested that they were considering leaving Florida to teach in other states and said they knew colleagues who had similar thoughts.

“In Florida, we know that these policies have really led to increased efforts to silence and surveil academic speech,” said Emily Anderson, an assistant professor of International Relations and Intercultural Education at Florida International University. “Academic speech matters, because it’s a fundamental freedom that is really how our university system is grounded. When we have policies that threaten speech, in my view, it shadows threats to all other protected rights.”

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article263966316.html#storylink=cpy

Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, has pushed policies that are driving teachers out of their profession. He knows exactly what he is doing. He favors charter schools and voucher schools, where teachers have no job security, no pensions.

Teachers are leaving public schools. They are quitting. DeSantis is getting what he wants.

BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) (Copyright © 2022 MetroDesk Media, LLC) — The Palm Beach County School District appears to be in desperate need of teachers as the new school year gets underway. The first day of school for students is August 10th. Several teachers tell BocaNewsNow.com that they — and their colleagues — are leaving their long-held positions due to what they call the politicization of teaching by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“From ’Don’t Say Gay’ to other bizarre positions,” said one teacher who asked not be identified, ”teaching is no longer teaching. It’s politics. Politics should have no place in the classroom, unless it’s actually a class about politics.”

“We have elementary school students who have same-sex parents,” said another teacher at a Palm Beach County elementary school. ”Are we really not allowed to acknowledge that? If we get fired, we lose benefits. If we resign now, we get what we have. This is why so many teachers are leaving. The Governor got it wrong.”

While the school district has been transmitting email blasts — and taking to social media — to promote job fairs and open positions, a check of the actual ”help wanted” website reveals just how dire the situation appears to be. As of noon on July 31st, 2022, a search of the word ”teacher” on the official Palm Beach County School District employment website yielded 1,784 jobs. While we did not review each and every listing, a spot check of several listings suggests that the openings are real. They range from full-time gifted to part-time continuing education. They range from Eagles Landing Middle School in Boca Raton to schools in all parts of the county.

It’s not just teachers. Transportation Services is also in need of bus drivers. The need is so great that the school district is offering a $1000 signing bonus to new transportation department employees.

It was widely reported yesterday that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had fired the state prosecutor for Hillsborough County because he refused to enforce state law on abortion and gender-affirming care for young people.

The prosecutor spoke out and basically said DeSantis was lying. No such cases had come up in Hillsborough but DeSantis was playing to Republicans in Iowa and other red states.

Raw Story reported:

On Thursday, Florida Politics reported that Andrew Warren, the Democratic state prosecutor of Hillsborough County, Florida, is hitting back at Gov. Ron DeSantis after he moved to suspend him from office.

“People need to understand this isn’t the Governor trying to suspend the one elected official,” said Warren. “This is the Governor trying to overthrow democracy here in Hillsborough County.”

Florida is unusual among states in that county prosecutors are elected directly, but that the governor has the authority to suspend them from office. DeSantis took this action against Warren, a progressive prosecutor who was elected on criminal justice reform, because of his refusal to enforce the state’s 15-week abortion ban and prohibition on gender-affirming care for children. In his place, DeSantis has installed Susan Lopez, a right-wing lawyer he previously appointed as Hillsborough County Judge.

“We’re protecting people’s rights; we have fought so hard for public safety and fairness and justice,” Warren said. “If the Governor thinks he can do a better job, then he should run for state attorney — not President. The Governor wants to do his sideshow with his cronies. I’m the one who’s upholding the law.” He added that regarding abortion and gender-affirming care prosecutions, “None of those cases have been brought to us. We’re not anticipating those cases being brought to us,” and urged any concerned to ask the county sheriff if any such cases are even being investigated.

John Merrow sees a common thread in the educational philosophies of Hitler, Stalin, Castro and most red state governors: They want to control the beliefs of students. They want them to believe what they are told. They do not want them to think for themselves. They want to indoctrinate students. They “weaponize schools” by using them for thought control.

This is an important article. It shows how governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis are not interested in freedom of thought but in censorship. He and his confreres are moving us ever closer to fascism.

Merrow begins:

“Whoever has the youth has the future.” Adolf Hitler

“Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.” Josef Stalin

“Revolution and education are the same thing.” Fidel Castro

Like Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, and Fidel Castro, Vladimir Putin is following a well-trod path, using Russia’s 40,000 schools to train all Russian children to believe what they are told and follow orders. Here in some American states, public schools are also being weaponized, but in different ways….

Here in the United States, public education and public school teachers are squarely in the sights of some Republican politicians. Instead of echoing Putin or Hitler, they are waving the flag of “Parents’ Rights.”

Among the Republicans waging what should properly be called a war against public education are Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Bill Lee of Tennessee, Kay Ivey of Alabama, Greg Abbott of Texas, Brian Kemp of Georgia, Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Tate Reeves of Mississippi, Brad Little in Idaho, Eric Holcomb in Indiana, and Kim Reynolds of Iowa.

They are eagerly copying Glenn Youngkin, the conservative who was elected Virginia’s governor in 2021 largely because he presented himself as a staunch defender of parents and their children–and by extension the entire community–against ‘indoctrination’ by leftist teachers who, Youngkin said, were making white children feel guilty about being white.

So-called “Critical Race Theory” is not taught in public schools, but that’s not stopping the politicians from using it as a whipping boy. Florida’s DeSantis put it this way: “Florida’s education system exists to create opportunity for our children. Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools.” And Florida has now banned a number of math textbooks, accusing the publishers of trying to indoctrinate children with Critical Race Theory.

A blogger who’s particularly upset, Michael McCaffrey, put it this way:

“Indoctrinating children with CRT is akin to systemic child abuse, as it steals innocence, twists minds, and crushes spirits. Parents must move heaven and earth to protect their children, and they can start by coming together and rooting out CRT from their schools by any and all legal means necessary.”

In the name of “defeating” CRT, Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee has invited Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian institution based in Michigan, to create 50 charter schools in Tennessee with public funds, including $32 million for facilities. As the New York Times reported, Governor Lee believes these schools will develop “informed patriotism” in Tennessee’s children.

It’s not just CRT. Republican politicians are also campaigning against transgender athletes, transgender bathrooms, mental health counseling, any discussion of sexuality, and the “right” of parents to examine and veto school curriculums. While I have written about these issues here, it’s important to remember that less than 2% of students identify as transgender or gender-fluid…

It’s not difficult to connect the dots: Republicans are attacking public schools, accusing them of ‘grooming’ their children to be gay, of making white children ashamed of their race, of undermining American patriotism and pride, and more. One goal is to persuade more parents to home-school their children, or enroll them in non-union Charter Schools, or use vouchers to pay non-public school tuition. Public school enrollment will drop, teachers will be laid off, teacher union revenue will decline, and less money will flow to Democrats.

But it seems to me that their real target is not parents but potential voters who do not have any connection with public education. Remember that in most communities about 75% of households do not have school-age children; many of these folks are older, and older people vote! If Republicans can convince these potential voters that schools cannot be trusted, they will win.

And Republicans seem to be winning. Teacher morale is low, and teachers are leaving the field in droves. Florida and California will have significant teacher shortages this fall, and one state, New Mexico, had to call in the National Guard to serve as substitutes. Enrollment is declining at institutions that train their replacements, and student enrollment in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles public schools dropped for the second consecutive year.

I began by contrasting the approach of dictators like Putin, Hitler and Stalin with the strategies being employed by Republican politicians. However, there are also disturbing similarities. Florida’s DeSantis, now polling strongly for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, recently signed legislation requiring public high schools to devote 45 minutes to teaching students about “the victims of Communism.”

Florida has also passed two bills limiting classroom conversations about race and racism and restricting younger students’ access to lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity, but Florida is not alone. The newspaper Education Week reports that fifteen states have passed similar legislation over the past year, and 26 others have introduced bills attempting to restrict these lessons.

Forbidding discussion of Topic X and mandating discussion of Topic Y:  That’s exactly what Mao, Hitler, Stalin, and Castro did, and it’s precisely what Putin is now doing.  

Please post your thoughts here: https://themerrowreport.com/2022/07/29/weaponizing-public-schools/

At a meeting in Tampa recently, the organization of far-right agitators called “Moms for Liberty” took aim at public schools, teachers, and curriculum. They believe their children are indoctrinated in public schools, which is utter nonsense. What is clear is that they want to indoctrinate all children into their racist, bigoted worldview.

The so-called “Moms” are terrified by teaching about racism and gender. They want the power to censor books they don’t like. They want to stifle teachers who teach the truth about American history.

Their first national conference was addressed by Fovernor Ron DeSantis, Senator Rick Scott, and Betsy DeVos, all of whom are contemptuous of public schools.

Who are the Moms for Liberty? They are the female version of the John Birch Society. The latter spied Communists everywhere. The Moms are terrified that someone might teach children that racism was and is a blight on our country.

Known largely for speaking out against mask mandates in the pandemic, demanding access to school curricula, rooting out offensive or explicit content in literature and voicing their suspicions about the pervasiveness of “woke ideology” at school board meetings across the country, members of Moms For Liberty said they now hope to expand their political influence and the scope of parental rights laws, which exist in about one third of states.

In the past few years, we have seen the rise of something called the “parental rights” movement. This movement consists of angry white parents, mostly women, like “Moms for Liberty” and “Parents Defending Freedom,” who insist that they as parents have the “right” to decide what their children are taught in school and what books they read. They strenuously object to teaching about race and racism, which they say makes their children “uncomfortable.” They believe that teachers are “grooming” their children to be gay or transgender by teaching them about gender or sexuality. Of course, if the last were true, almost everyone would now be transgender, since most students have taken a sex-ed course at some point, focused mainly on health.

In response to the outcry from these groups, a number of states, led by Florida and Virginia, have passed laws they describe as “parental rights” laws, which ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” because they make students “uncomfortable.” The most “divisive” concept of all is “critical race theory,” which states ban. Since legislators don’t know what critical race theory is, their laws are meant to remove any teaching about race and racism from the curriculum.

Bottom line: only white parents have parental rights.

But what about Black parents? Do they have rights? Apparently not.

What about other parents who do not identify with angry white parents? Don’t their children have the right to learn an accurate history of the state, the U.S., and the world?

Why do Moms for Liberty get to define what all parents want?

Shouldn’t Black children learn about the history of race and racism?

Why shouldn’t all students learn accurate history, even if it makes them “uncomfortable”?

Why should a small subset of far-right fringe white parents get the power to censor what everyone else is taught and is allowed to read?

These “parental rights” laws are a paper-thin veneer for censorship, gag orders, lies and propaganda. They are the product of arrogant racists who can’t be bothered to hide their venomous racism.

They prefer ignorance to knowledge. They should not be allowed to impose their hateful ideology on others.

Florida is led by a Republican governor and legislature determined to crush public schools. The state is overrun by unregulated voucher schools, where teachers and principals need no certification. Some of these openly discriminate and indoctrinate. The Orlando Sentinel ran a series about the voucher schools called “schools without rules.”

Florida has a thriving charter industry, many of them operated by for-profit corporations.

Now the state has passed a new law making it easier to open new charter schools and suck money out of the public schools.

As this rampant privatization continues, Governor DeSantis keeps up a barrage of attacks on public schools and their teachers, accusing them of “indoctrinating” their students with anti-racist views and “grooming” children to be transgender.

Ron DeSantis is either very crazy or very mad. At a press conference, he claimed that elementary school teachers are “instructed” to encourage children to switch genders.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is never one to let the facts get in the way of his latest bit of fear-mongering. The governor and possible presidential candidate tossed out another bit of rancid, Republican red meat, telling a crowd at a recent press conference that school teachers are “instructed to tell kids” to switch genders.

Governor DeSantis has insulted every teacher in the state of Florida. He hates teachers, except when he wants to arm them.

This attack must be part of his plan to turn parents against their local public schools and to create demand for vouchers. With vouchers, students can attend religious schools that openly indoctrinate their students.