Column: DeSantis World will not tolerate deviation from the party line
Knowledge is so dangerous it must be regulated and monitored
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.| Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A lot of people are scared. Scared of ideas, scared of books, scared of the human body, scared of education. Scared of educators.
When people get scared, they resort to bullying.
The trustees of New College, the cadre of reactionaries recently imposed by the governor, have denied tenure to five long-time faculty members. The professors — two chemists, a specialist in Islam, a marine biologist, and a scholar of Latin American music — had met the publishing, teaching and service requirements for tenure; they’d been approved by their departments, their deans, and the college provost.
But New College is now an arm of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ likely presidential campaign, and these people need to be examined for signs of “wokeness.” Richard Corcoran, the underqualified (yet over-paid) president, cited “extraordinary circumstances,” which supposedly include the “current uncertainty of the needs of the divisions/units and college.”
Translated from the original Hillsdale-ese, Corcoran’s saying he means to clean house, get rid of the academics who made New College a highly-ranked and ferociously loved institution, and install tame teachers who’ll force-feed students what the DeSantis Right sees as the important stuff: Christian nationalism, American exceptionalism, Western chauvinism, and pronouns.
In Michigan, DeSantis describes his enemies: The ‘legacy’ media and the ‘woke’ left
We must clamp down on rogue pronouns.
This is oddly similar to how the Germans handled higher education in the 1930s: You either got with the cultural program (like the philosopher Martin Heidegger), or else, like economist Peter Drucker and a physicist named Albert Einstein, you left.
New College students — like all students in Florida — are now hostages to the governor’s monomaniacal crusade against free intellectual inquiry. New College faculty — along with every other teacher in Florida — now know that their government will retaliate against them for bucking the party line.
Leon County schools superintendent Rocky Hanna dared to defy the governor during the COVID pandemic, recommending students continue to mask up. He dared to tell teachers worried about the Legislature’s attempt to police every inch of the curriculum: “Continue to teach the standards just as you have always done and do not worry for one minute about naysayers political and others, who are trying to mislead people and control what you can and cannot say in your classroom.”
A woman called Brandi Andrews, evidently a big cheese in the hilariously titled “Moms for Liberty,” wrote to the governor demanding Hanna lose his job for expressing views contrary to the DeSantis dogma on school vouchers and the “stop woke” curriculum. The letter was stamped “Let’s Go Brandon.”
The state Department of Education has informed Hanna that his deviation from the governor’s script is enough to “justify sanctions against your Florida educator certificate” and maybe fire him.
This is government by spite.
By declaring his intention to fight for public school students and teachers, Hanna has become another target of DeSantis’ authoritarian rage, rather like Andrew Warren, the Hillsborough County state’s attorney removed for stating he would not automatically go after people under Florida’s hateful abortion restrictions.
Never mind that prosecutorial discretion is within a state attorney’s authority and practiced in every part of the country.
Both Hanna and Warren were elected by the people of their districts, but DeSantis isn’t much interested in democracy. Or expertise. He seems to despise those who have spent years studying their subjects, testing their ideas, adding to human knowledge, seeking the truth.
Look at Dr. Joseph Ladapo, our quack of a state surgeon general: He’s lately claimed — falsely — that young men who got the COVID vaccine were at substantially higher risk of heart-related deaths than the unvaccinated. The University of Florida School of Medicine investigated his study and concluded it was a dubious stew of “careless, irregular, or contentious research practices.”
Ladapo withheld crucial data and misrepresented findings. But unlike Rocky Hanna and Andrew Warren, he’ll keep both his well-paid jobs: surgeon general and professor of medicine at UF. His undoubtedly depressed colleagues concluded that since he committed scientific malpractice as a political appointee instead of a professor, they can’t get rid of him.
DeSantis’ acolytes prefer to cover up realities that make them uncomfortable, whether it’s a virus, systemic racism, or human sexuality. The Department of Education, state university boards of trustees, and loyal foot soldiers like the Moms for Liberty want to make sure that learning is kept on a short leash.
During a Leon County school board meeting in March this year, a posse of pearl clutchers showed up to pitch a hissy fit about the proposed “human growth and development” curriculum: what most of us know as sex ed.
Look at Dr. Joseph Ladapo, our quack of a state surgeon general: He’s lately claimed — falsely — that young men who got the COVID vaccine were at substantially higher risk of heart-related deaths than the unvaccinated. The University of Florida School of Medicine investigated his study and concluded it was a dubious stew of 'careless, irregular, or contentious research practices.'
They were upset at mere mentions of emergency contraception and gender fluidity, as well as the appearance of the word “anal” in the optional part of the content.
Even more shocking, at least according to Brandi Andrews (see above), there’s an educational film on female anatomy which depicts the clitoris as “a laughing cartoon sponge.”
Ms. Andrews, scandalized, objected: “I honestly just envision a little girl going to school that day, not thinking a thing about this, she learns what a clitoris is. She goes home, now has the seed implanted in her and is wondering what that is, what that feels like and starts masturbating. What does that do for her future?”
Tree of Knowledge
Perhaps the Moms for Liberty and the rest of the anti-information right should have a look at the scholarly literature on human sexuality from the National Institutes of Health and other medical professionals: Very young kids masturbate. They do not grow hair on their palms. They do not go blind. They might even grow up to feel comfortable with their bodies.
But that knowledge, like the knowledge gained from real science, real learning, real history, is apparently so dangerous it must be regulated and monitored. Those who go around spouting the wrong kind of knowledge must be cast out.
The DeSantis Right, terrified that their children might turn out to be gay or trans, that women might not regard motherhood as their highest calling, that “Merry Christmas” will become extinct, that Black people will insist on justice, and that white people might not rule the roost forever, are determined to stamp out any mention of these dangerous ideas.
Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and God kicked us all out of Eden. It’s been anarchy ever since.
Much better to remain ignorant and unquestioning. Much better for Ron DeSantis’ political future.
This column first ran in the Advance’s sister outlet, the Florida Phoenix.
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