World Florida Guv’s School Crackdown Is a Red Scare Throwback
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill requiring public school students "to reflect and to be able to pray as they see fit" for one or two minutes each day during first period. Florida law already "encourages" students to participate in "silent prayer," but HB 529 will require that minute-or-two of reflection. "It’s something that’s important to be able to provide each student the ability, every day, to be able to reflect and to be able to pray as they see fit," DeSantis said during a Monday press conference.
In 1954, the year afteradopted a curriculum, feverish stories hit a northeast newspaper. “School Text Praises Communist Fronts,” .
What, exactly, were those secret communist messages? A trio of concerned mothers: the textbook American Problems Today painted a favorable picture of the American Civil Liberties Union, and “advocated FEPC [the Fair Employment Practice Committee] and other forms of integration.” A state senator claimed that the textbook taught principles “opposite” to those in the Constitution, and the northeastern Florida teacher who introduced the book to his class was eventually fired.
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Years passed. The Red Scare cooled. Florida updated its curriculum for the times. But now those classroom codes are being revised again, with an eerie throwback to the state’s most hardcore Cold War-era education panic.
In recent weeks, Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into law a series of education edicts. Public school curricula will now teach the “evils” of communism. Schools are prohibited from teaching certain topics on race, including that “racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems.” And a new higher-education law—written as ideologically neutral but—allows for budget cuts to colleges based on student and faculty surveys about “viewpoint diversity.”
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The laws’ critics say they’re part of a well precedented, anti-left campaign in the state’s education system.
Dr. Robert Dahlgren, a SUNY Fredonia professor who has written at length about the Red Scare’s effect on Florida teachers, said some of the new laws, particularly those about race, seek to stifle discussion about America’s past.
“I think that’s the deeper level that these laws are trying to address, as they did back in the fifties,” Dahlgren told The Daily Beast. “They shut down any kind of expression of critical examination of our history.”
Florida’s own history, like much of America’s, is riddled with none-too-proud moments. Although it is now forbidden for Florida’s schools to teach about racism in the legal system, many of those same, even after 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation to be unconstitutional.
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And in 2021 as in 1954, critics on the right are quick to conflate racial-justice programs with communism.
As the pandemic eases and school boards resume in-person meetings across the country, many of the gatherings have become hotbeds for anxieties about “critical race theory.” The theory, a method of examining inequality in the legal system, is typically the stuff of college and graduate courses—it’s almost never actually taught to kids.
Nevertheless, following sustained messaging from Fox News and, schools have been accused of teaching critical race theory, and those critics have also accused the theory, baselessly, or communist.
Scant on actual evidence of the theory being propagated in K-12 schools, its critics have pointed to schools’ anti-racism efforts, or history lessons that highlight racism in America’s past., which on its face bans critical race theory, actually prohibits schools from teaching about racism in America’s foundations, critics say.
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Andrew Spar, head of the Florida Education Association, previously denounced Florida’s anti-CRT law. "Students deserve the best education we can provide, and that means giving them a true picture of their world and our shared history as Americans. Hiding facts doesn't change them,” he.
"If giving students a good education is the goal, the rule could be amended to say in part: ‘Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective, and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow,’” he added.
Florida schools will, however, teach “first-person accounts of victims of other nations’ governing philosophies who can compare those philosophies with those of the United States,” under a new. DeSantis specifically cited communism as an ideology highlighted under the new program.
“Why would somebody flee across shark infested waters, say leaving from Cuba, to come to southern Florida? Why would somebody leave a place like Vietnam? Why would people leave these countries and risk their life to be able to come here?” DeSantis said. “It’s important that students understand that."
But whether it’s the right’s latest freakout over “critical race theory” or the revival of yesteryear’s “communism” craze, campaigns against boogeymen like these are often stalking-horses for other grievances, Dahlgren explained.
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“This was thought to be winning politics at a time when Florida was being challenged by the Civil Rights movement,” Dahlgren said of Florida’s mid-50s anti-communist sentiment, which was hurled at teachers who promoted pro-integration textbooks. “It’s interesting that today, again, we have this conflation between critical race theory, in the same way that the burgeoning Civil Rights movement and communism were being conflated.”
In the 1950s, much as a national network of thinktanks are currently lobbying against critical race theory in schools, Florida’s anti-communist school curriculums were developed in part by right-leaning groups, “very much what we would call today an AstroTurf phenomenon, Dahlgren noted.
Even more remarkably, Florida’s renewed stance against both ostensible communism and critical race theory in schools comes with a new state policy of surveying college students and faculty for their opinions on their schools’ ideological makeup.
“I think that having intellectual diversity is something that is very, very important,”.
But although the law’s text does not target any particular ideology, some of its advocates in the state legislature were clear on their intent to wield it against left-leaning colleges, long a source of enmity among American conservatives. One lawmaker went so far as to call the schools “socialism factories,” and DeSantis accused schools of “indoctrinating” students.
Schools found lacking might face budget cuts, DeSantis suggested.
“That’s not worth tax dollars and that’s not something that we’re going to be supporting moving forward,” heat a press conference.
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Ohio private school students denied reenrollment after moms' 'inflammatory' campaign against 'indoctrination' .
An Ohio private school is denying reenrollment to several students, alleging that their mothers breached part of their contract by leading a public campaign against the school's purported attempt to "indoctrinate" students with left-wing ideas. The decision capped off months of efforts by parents Andrea Gross and Amy Gonzalez to probe Columbus Academy's (CA) activities, which allegedly included divisive concepts about race and anti-conservative sentiment. Fox News has obtained copies of the school's letters notifying Gross and Gonzalez, who lead the Pro-CA Coalition, of the decision.