By Frank F Islam & Ed Crego, April 18, 2023 (Image credits: Tom de Boor, Adobe, Dreamstime, et al)
Following woke indoctrination in our schools, that is a road to ruin for our country. And we’re not going to let that happen in Florida.
– Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has become the rising star in the Republican Party and the potential leading challenger to Donald Trump to secure the nomination to be the Republican candidate for President in 2024. He has achieved this status by purportedly being a champion of free speech and citizens’ rights.
DeSantis celebrated that perspective and accomplishments in March with publication of his memoir, The Courage to be Free, and a national book tour. The book shot to the top of the best-seller list.
Here’s the irony of all of this. While DeSantis speaks out against indoctrination, he is, in fact, the inventor of and advocate for the DeSantis Doctrine.
The DeSantis Doctrine does not subjugate indoctrination. Instead it promotes indoctrination to its beliefs.
The DeSantis Doctrine is designed to silence and eliminate the voices of any who view things differently, and to ensure that future generations are not taught anything that is not whitewashed. A core message of the DeSantis Doctrine is simple: If you see things the way I do and agree with me, speak up and hop on for the ride. If you disagree, shut up and go to the back of the bus.
The areas for the DeSantis indoctrination in Florida during his tenure as Governor have included, but not been limited to: health care; education; and entertainment.
Governor DeSantis began making a name for himself by pushing back against the federal recommendations and mandates for vaccinations and lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The Hill, under his leadership, the state of Florida was one of the later states to order a lockdown, on April 1, 2020, and one of the first states to allow re-opening of many businesses, on April 29, 2020.
As the pandemic continued and progressed in November of 2021, DeSantis became more aggressive and assertive in his position, signing legislation that, among other things: prohibited private employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates; restricted government entities from requiring vaccinations for anyone, including employees; and restricted school districts from requiring vaccinations for students or having school mask policies.
In January of this year, DeSantis called for legislation to make all of those bans permanent. As Politico reports, he also “…wants lawmakers to pass legislation that ‘protects medical professionals’ freedom of speech” in order to rebut recommendations or information from federal medical sources without any evidence. On March 16, the DeSantis administration issued a self-congratulatory press release, quoting the Governor as saying;
“Florida bucked the COVID-19 orthodoxy and instead used commonsense policies to become a refuge of sanity. Federal vaccine mandates and restrictions were never about protecting Americans from a virus, they were exercising control at the expense of the American economy and the American way of life. In Florida, we did not abdicate our leadership decisions to DC bureaucrats. Instead, we bucked the bureaucrats by ensuring kids could be in school, Floridians could go to work and businesses could thrive.”
That press release summarizes one facet of the DeSantis Doctrine in a nutshell: school, work, and business come first — and healthcare isn’t even in the race.
In its defense, the DeSantis Doctrine does keep kids in the classroom. On the flip side, it also locks the classroom door on what can be taught. Except at recess, the students will not be “free to be… you and me,” and freedom of expression will not be allowed
As Governor, DeSantis initially focused his attention on what goes on in education in grades K-12, but more recently, in 2023, he has gone into a no holds barred assault on higher education.
Fabiola Cineas of Vox does a good job of summarizing DeSantis’ educational trajectory. In 2021, DeSantis signed a bill banning women and girl transgender athletes from public school teams. In 2022, the DeSantis administration banned dozens of math books from the classroom because they contained “woke ideology (e.g., critical race theory and social-emotional learning).”
2022 was not only a banning year for DeSantis. It was also a banner year for legislation restricting the rights of schools and teachers, with the implementation of the Parental Rights in Education Act and the Individual Freedom Act, which took effect in July of 2022.
The Parental Rights in Education Act prohibited talking about sexuality and gender in grades K-3. It was labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its opponents.
The Individual Freedom Act was supposed to “prevent discrimination in the workplace.” This Act, which was referred to by many supporters as the Stop WOKE Act (Stop the Wrongs to our Kids and Employees), did just the opposite by banning schools or businesses from teaching anything that would make anyone feel “guilt, anguish or any form of psychological distress because of their race, gender, sex or national origin.”
In July 2021, Governor DeSantis announced a National Model Civic Literacy Initiative, with $106 million devoted to ensuring that “every K-12 student is educated with our new civics curriculum.” The initiative included funding to create a bonus of $3,000 for qualified teachers who complete the training to earn the Florida Civics Seal of Excellence.
In June and July of 2022, that training started to be conducted and there were serious questions from some regarding its objectivity. Citing media coverage from various sources, Molly Stellino writes in USA Today, “These critics called the instruction ‘very skewed’ and ‘straight up indoctrination.”
In March of 2023, Governor DeSantis announced that “the first 4,500 teachers have completed the Civics Seal of Excellence endorsement course and will receive a $3,000 bonus.” That same announcement stated that “Enrollment for the course is at capacity with 20,000 teachers…and there are more than 14,000 on the waiting list…”
In 2023, DeSantis graduated from indoctrination in K-12 to indoctrination in higher education. Three key moves in this regard were: refusing to approve a new Advanced Placement course on Black history from the College Board; eliminating DEI programs and initiatives in public higher education; and taking over a small public liberal arts college located in Sarasota.
In her article on the rejection of the College Board AP Black history course, Laura Meckler of the Washington Post notes that Cassie Palelis, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education, stated, “In its current form the College Board’s AP African American studies course lacked educational value and is contrary to Florida law.” According to Meckler, the College Board responded with a statement, which included pointing out: “…the class does not aim to push any point of view and depends on students immersing themselves in primary sources” and “revisions will be made based on early experience and the course frameworks, ‘often change significantly.’”
The DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) programs were required in Florida higher educational institutions beginning in 2020. According to Cineas of Vox, on January 31, DeSantis issued an order prohibiting these institutions from any funding, no matter the source, to support these programs. One day later, on February 1, “The presidents at 28 state college pledged to end all ‘discriminatory DEI and CRT initiatives at their institutions’…”
Patricia Okker, the former President of the “liberal leaning” New College of Florida in Sarasota did not pledge to end that college’s DEI programs on February 1 — because she was fired on January 31 by the board.
DeSantis had appointed six new conservative members to the 13-member New College board on January 6. Those appointees included Christopher Rufo, a political strategist who “takes credit for launching the war on critical race theory,” and the graduate school dean of conservative Christian Hillsdale College, located in Michigan.
The new board has suggested that New College adopt a curriculum based upon Hillside’s. If that would happen, it would make the conversion of New College total — moving it from being a free and independent institution for education to being a conservative and controlled institution for indoctrination.
The DeSantis desire to control extends beyond where citizens work and learn to where they play and relax as well. Disney World is the foremost entertainment complex and resort in Florida. It is also the state’s largest employer.
When the Parental Rights in Education Act (Don’t Say Gay bill) was signed into legislation by DeSantis in July of 2022, Disney World’s Chief Executive Bob Chapek criticized that bill. This has resulted in a nearly year-long dispute between Disney and DeSantis which has taken more dramatic twists and turns than a Disney World ride.
Jesus Jimenez and Giulia Heyward highlight the evolving nature of that dispute in their March 31 New York Times article. Based upon their analysis, shortly after Chapek spoke out, DeSantis and Fox News started to referring to the company as “Woke Disney” rather than Walt Disney.
DeSantis proceeded from there to revoke the special tax status the 25,000 acre Disney World complex had held since 1967. The legislature agreed with this move, until it realized that the two counties in which the complex resided would have to pay for the services in the complex and also absorb the nearly $1 billion in debt being carried by Disney World. So, in February of this year, the legislature decided to let Disney World keep its special tax status.
The trade-off was to let DeSantis appoint the members of the tax district’s five-member oversight board. This looked like a win for DeSantis and his indoctrination team, as Jeff Vahle, the President of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement that Disney was “ready to work in the new framework.”
What the DeSantis representative didn’t realize is that the new framework Vahle was referring to was an agreement the outgoing Disney-controlled board had passed in a public meeting convened in early February. That agreement limited the new DeSantis’ appointed board’s powers, and gave the Disney company total control in perpetuity of areas such as construction and “using Disney’s name, Mickey Mouse and other characters without the company’s approval.”
The scope and thrust of that agreement became apparent in late March. At that time Brian Aungst, Jr. a DeSantis appointee to the Board, grumbled “We are going to have deal with it and correct it.” Disney, in a statement, said that its actions were legal and “were discussed in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine law.”
The Disney-DeSantis dispute has definitely been entertaining. And at this juncture, it has been much more enjoyable for Disney and Mickey Mouse than for DeSantis and what he thought was his mouse trap.
In summary, that is the some of the impact of the DeSantis doctrine on health care, education, and entertainment. The doctrine is pervasive and impacts nearly all facets of life and death in Florida.
As one final example, the doctrine does not try to control guns. In fact, in spite of the fact that Florida is the state in which the tragic Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, in which 17 lost their lives, and the shooting and killing of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, DeSantis’ most recent action gave additional freedoms to those who carry guns.
On April 3, the Governor signed a law that allows any one who legally owns guns to carry concealed guns without a permit. No training or background check would be required in order to do this.
DeSantis signed the bill permitting the permit-less carry in a private ceremony in his office. According to Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press, his only public comment on this was in a three-paragraph news release which included, “Constitutional Carry is in the books.” That release should also have said “And the NRA’s money is in the bank.”
As noted at the outset of this piece, in the first quarter of this year Ron DeSantis and his indoctrination agenda has moved center stage nationally. That exposure has brought both good news and bad.
The good news for DeSantis is that his name is becoming much better known. The bad news is that people are discovering who he is and what he stands for. That has already begun to diminish the glow of this “rising star.”
Here are a few things that have come to the forefront in coverage, contributing to the reduction of DeSantis’ star power with some.
- As a graduate of Harvard Law with his undergraduate degree from Yale, DeSantis decided to serve as a Navy officer in the Judge Advocate Corps. Part of that service was performed at Guantanamo Bay where, according to various news sources such as the Miami Herald, the Washington Post, and Newsweek, he advised that force-feeding of the detainees who were on hunger strikes was allowable; observed some of the detainees being tortured in an inhumane fashion; and counseled against providing prisoners’ rights in accordance with their religion or standard incarceration proceedings.
- George Will, political commentator and columnist for the Washington Post, in his own inimitable way called out DeSantis for his “unforced errors,” which, according to Will, included:
… describing Russia’s war of annihilation against Ukraine as a “territorial dispute.” And backing a ban on abortion after six weeks, which is before women often know they are pregnant. (Is he trying to forfeit the female vote in suburbia, where the 2024 election might be decided?) And vowing, unintelligibly (see the Constitution’s Article IV, Section 2), that he will “not assist” any extradition of Trump from Florida.
- Ian Millhiser, a senior correspondent at Vox, has a JD from Duke and has written two books on the Supreme Court. Early in his detailed article titled “Ron DeSantis’s war on ‘wokeness’ is a war against the First Amendment,” Millhiser asserted that “DeSantis isn’t just determined to use his public office to suppress dissenting voices and promote his own reactionary view; he’s also quite willing to thumb his nose at the Constitution in order to do so.” Milhiser closes his piece by warning, “With the right judges in place, DeSantis could potentially transform American society and culture in ways that would be unrecognizable to everyone accustomed to how the First Amendment has been interpreted for the last sixty years.”
In 1969, Kris Kristofferson wrote “Me and Bobby McGee”, a song with the well-known lyrics “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”
In 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis is talking and writing about freedom. If the American public is seduced by his lyrics rather than looking at the indoctrination doctrine and practices behind them, we and the American democracy will be the victims, and our freedom will become just another word for nothing left to lose.