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We Must Protect the Schools
The importance of defending education from the far-right can't be understated.
It should go without saying, but schools matter. What society teaches the next generation determines much of its future. Those who teach not only provide valuable life skills that will assist students in their lives and future careers but also provide skills that are critical to the student’s ability to live in a free society. In other words, free and open education ensures the development of a healthy and informed citizenry. Unfortunately, that necessity of academic liberty has come under attack amid a new wave of anti-intellectualism rising among the ranks of the GOP.
Meet The Bookburners
Earlier last year, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a controversial law that would punish teachers with felony charges if they had books within their libraries that the state government did not approve.
As a result, stories have been spreading around Florida showing empty bookshelves as teachers and librarians across the sunshine state fumble to determine what they can and can’t provide to their students.
DeSantis, of course, has denied that such removals are occurring or that the law would require such restrictions, but his own Department of Education confirmed the restrictions, according to internal documents by The Washington Post.
According to The Washington Post:
School officials in at least two counties, Manatee and Duval, have directed teachers this month to remove or wrap up their classroom libraries, according to records obtained by The Washington Post. The removals come in response to fresh guidance issued by the Florida Department of Education in mid-January, after the State Board of Education ruled that a law restricting the books a district may possess applies not only to schoolwide libraries but to teachers’ classroom collections, too.
House Bill 1467, which took effect as law in July, mandates that schools’ books be age-appropriate, free from pornography and “suited to student needs.” Books must be approved by a qualified school media specialist, who must undergo a state retraining on book collection.
These decisions by DeSantis and his allies are part of a larger attempt to restrict what is acceptable to teach to students, namely, how the right-wing leaders of Flordia can restrict texts involving LGBTQ work discussing racism and civil rights thinkers.
As of October of last year, an estimated 64 state laws were put in place to restrict what teachers could discuss surrounding race, gender, and history at large, along with restrictions on trans athletes in sports, per a report by the Post.
The sheer number of states, half of the country, that enacted said laws is baffling. It demonstrates a complete disregard for good governance in favor of a craven rush for power through the universities and through limitations on public thought. And it is working.
A study by the Rand Corporation and evaluated by The Washington Post’s Hannah Natanson showed that:
A report published by the RAND Corporation on Wednesday found that of a nationally representative sample of 8,000 teachers, one-quarter said they had revised their instructional materials or teaching practices to limit or exclude discussions of race and gender. The report also found that some teachers were more likely than others to alter their lesson plans — including teachers of color, high school teachers and educators in suburban school districts. And the report found that teachers are feeling direct pressure from parents to shift their teaching habits.
The effectiveness of the bans on supposedly inappropriate material should scare the American people, as it is yet another example of the groomer panic and the far-right effort to control the American people entirely.
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If a governor or even a state legislature can determine when and where people are able to learn, even as adults, about specific subjects of public life, then it stands to reason that they can control the very ideas that could be used to criticize them and remove them from power. So long as there are no legal protections in place to prevent this authoritarian garbage, more people are going to suffer and our republic will suffer with them.