According to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida is “where woke goes to die,” said in his victory speech after defeating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist in November 2022.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “woke” is an adjective referring to someone who is “aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues,” especially issues of race and social justice. Therefore, why is DeSantis targeting “woke” culture?
The term has recently been used by some conservatives as an insult against progressive values. Some values include critical race theory, sexual orientation and gender identity.
While neither bill explicitly mentions the words “gay,” “LGBTQ+” or “woke,” they have been criticized by political analysts for discreetly holding intentions to curb discussions of gender identity and the LGBTQ+ community entirely. DeSantis has been vocal about his intentions in the past.
“When you actually look at the bill and it says ‘no sexual instruction to kids pre-K through three,’ how many parents want their kids to have transgenderism or something injected into classroom instruction?” said DeSantis in a press conference in March 2022.
The topic of “transgenderism” is not inherently sexual in the same context as sexual intercourse. While it may be too abstract for elementary schoolers, these topics should not be shielded from students as a form of “protection.”
The main issue with this bill is that parents can sue teachers and the school district for violating bans on these discussions. The discussions must remain “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards,” but what is considered “age appropriate” when “transgenderism” and “gender theory” is not inherently sexual? The bill is vague and it opens the door to arguing that any discussion is “inappropriate.”
As for the “Anti-Woke” bill, the bill prohibits workplace training and school lessons violating certain concepts regarding race and racism. One prohibited concept includes that an individual should feel guilt because of their race or sex, or that anyone is “inherently” racist or sexist. This bill essentially bans the discussion of critical race theory in any manner.
It would be false to teach that the United States was not built on slavery and racism, that Black people still do not feel the repercussions of slavery, and that White people still do not benefit even subconsciously from slavery. By eradicating “guilt,” Florida is essentially erasing history to favor the White man.
This past summer, the Florida Department of Education approved “educational” videos produced by conservative media company “PragerU.” The company is best known for producing educational videos on history, social studies, civics and news from a conservative angle. It is not a real university.
One video shows two children going back in time to meet Christopher Columbus to figure out if he was malicious or not, in which Columbus announced that his intentions were only to “help” the natives. These videos have an agenda, which is to push conservative ideas in school systems. These videos are often misleading, inaccurate and extreme. Another video shows a Polish girl taking a stance against green energy and comparing it to fighting Nazi oppression.
Ad Fontes Media, a new fact-checking company, PragerU is ranked as the “Hyper-Partisan Right category of bias and as unreliable, problematic in terms of reliability.”
It seems that DeSantis and Republican lawmakers want to counteract “liberal propaganda” with the complete opposite: conservative propaganda, which is both redundant and hypocritical. These legislation changes within Florida public schools are an abuse of power by DeSantis, allowing him to insert his own political agenda into public schools in the name of “protecting children.” It does not end at just elementary schoolers, objective classes such as AP Psychology have been banned in high schools for discussions of gender roles in society.
Florida is an extreme example of how politicians can influence public school systems and indoctrinate youth, but it does not end in Florida. Nationwide, similar bills are moving through other state legislatures, such as Alabama, Ohio, Louisiana and Texas.
According to the Trevor Project, students who learned about LGBTQ+ issues showed 23 percent lower odds of a suicide attempt. These conservative bills erase minority history and denounce LGBTQ+ individuals.
Whether one is a conservative or not, nobody can deny that public schools must be impartial and truthful. Abstract and uncomfortable discussions about ugly history should be welcome, not hidden. All political ideologies should be embraced, not pushed.