In Florida, teachers are no longer legally allowed to choose books for their own classroom libraries because they might choose a book that offends the delicately hateful sensibilities of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis signed a law mandating all books that come into public schools be curated by a librarian.
My wife is a teacher, and I can’t even begin to compute the number of hours she’s spent over the course of her career carefully selecting books for her classroom. And I don’t even want to know how much money it has cost her personally.
According to Judd Legum’s Popular Information, teachers in Florida are literally shrouding their bookshelves with construction paper to keep books they have spent countless years and countless dollars collecting away from the kids they teach.
Every single book in a Florida school must be on an approved list and any book that isn’t needs to be individually vetted by certified Educational Media Specialists. Oh, and those specialists will be vetting books with the threat of criminal prosecution hanging over their heads, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
We’re talking about thousands and thousands of books that are essentially banned in Florida schools right now. Books that teaching professionals selected. But Republicans do not trust teachers. And so here we are.
The criteria books have to meet include, “The accurate portrayal of the state’s broad racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural diversity, without bias or indoctrination.”
And we know what “indoctrination” means. Any book that positively portrays LGBTQ+ people or dares to suggest that Black people were held as slaves and forced to do the labor that this country is built upon (rather than calling them, say, “guest workers”) is liberal brainwashing. And now, in Florida, having a book that upsets right-wingers is a felony.
And get this: ANYONE can launch a complaint about a book. According to the Florida Department of Education guidelines, “Objections can be brought forth by any person residing within the district or a parent of a district student.”
The same right-wing conservatives who gnash their teeth over “free speech” because they can’t use racial slurs or advocate for violence against LGBTQ+ people on social media are literally banning books. So much irony, so little time.
Florida also banned an AP African American history class, which DeSantis defended while standing behind a podium that had a sign on the front reading, I kid you not: “Florida, the education state.”
Did I mention irony?
In defense of the indefensible, DeSantis made it clear that Florida requires teaching Black history, but that this AP class was just “a separate course on top of that.”
And lo and behold, it turns out that the Black history course was intolerable to DeSantis in another way, too.
“This course on Black history. What are one of the lessons about? Queer theory,” he said according to the New Civil Rights Movement. “Now, who would say that an important part of Black history is ‘queer theory’?”
Uh, me? Does DeSantis think that there were no historically significant Black queer people in the United States?
Wait a minute, why am I asking that? Of course he thinks that. The man is very proudly ignorant.
“That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids, and so when you look to see they have stuff about ‘intersectionality,’ abolishing prisons, that’s a political agenda,” DeSantis said, continuing his defense. “That’s the wrong side of the line for Florida standards. We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them. When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”
Again, because irony is dead in Florida, DeSantis doesn’t see that banning a Black history class because students will, like, learn more than whatever bare minimum Black history standards Florida has and because it includes teaching about queer people is a political move. Banning books is a political move. It’s also indoctrinating kids to believe that LGBTQ+ and BIPOC people are, at best, a historical afterthought and, at worst, an inhuman group undeserving of civil rights.
Now that is a political agenda.