WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2023
A report from darkest Florida: We were intrigued by Daniel Golden's new report for The Atlantic—by his occasionally puzzling report from deep inside darkest Florida.
Golden's report involves the effects on college instruction of the DeSantis "Stop W.O.K.E. Act." As it turns out, the official name of the legislation was the Individual Freedom Act.
Right at the start of his report, Golden describes the concerns of Jonathan Cox, a sociology professor at Central Florida University. Along the way, Golden offers a semi-puzzling description of the contents of the widely-discussed DeSantis legislation:
GOLDEN (1/3/23): As recently as August 2021, Cox had doubted that the controversy over critical race theory—which posits, among other things, that racism is ingrained in America’s laws and power structure—would hamstring his teaching. Asked on a podcast what instructors would do if, as anticipated, Florida restricted the teaching of CRT in higher education, he said that they would need to avoid certain buzzwords. “What many of us are looking at doing is just maybe shifting some of the language that we’re using.”
But a clash with state law seemed inevitable, once Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, proposed what he called the strongest legislation in the nation against “the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory.” Last April, DeSantis signed the Individual Freedom Act, also known as the “Stop Woke Act,” into law. It bans teaching that one race or gender is morally superior to another, and prohibits teachers from making students feel guilty for past discrimination by members of their race. And it specifically bars portraying racial color-blindness—which the law labels a virtue—as racist.
That description of the Florida law strikes us as somewhat odd.
Are we supposed to be upset if professors at a state university are conjoined from "teaching that one race or gender is morally superior to another?" Golden almost makes it sound like this proscription constitutes a problem with this ballyhooed state law.
In a somewhat similar vein, should professors at a state university encourage teen-aged college students to "feel guilty for past discrimination by members of their race?" We would say that the answer is no. Is Golden attempting to differ?
In that passage, Golden cites a third part of the ballyhooed Florida law. Accurately, he says the law "specifically bars portraying racial color-blindness as racist."
That's a fairly fuzzy prohibition. That said, it seems to be one of the requirements which led Professor Cox to cancel two courses this year. In this passage, Golden describes the two courses in question:
GOLDEN: The first, “Race and Social Media,” featured a unit on “racial ideology and color-blindness.” The second, “Race and Ethnicity,” included a reading on “the myth of a color-blind society.” An assistant sociology professor, Cox had taught both courses before; they typically drew 35 to 40 undergraduates apiece.
Given the language of the new law, should Cox have felt that he needed to cancel those courses?
For the record, it's been amazingly hard, within the past year, to find the official, formal text of this widely-discussed Florida law. The best we can offer you can be found by clicking this link.
For what it's worth, the text of the law specifically says that professors like Cox actually can conduct discussions of such notions as the claim that "color-blindness is racist." According to the language of the law, Professor Cox could conduct a discussion of that claim, "provided such instruction is given in an objective manner without endorsement of the concept."
That brings us to our question:
Should college professors be promoting their own points of view concerning such topics? Or should college professors be exposing students to prevailing arguments and claims concerning such topics?
In our view, professors who want to promote their own views can always run for Congress. That said, this legislation will almost surely produce a lot of confusion and anguish, and we're inclined to regard DeSantis as a hack and a bully.
Professor Cox seems like a thoroughly good, decent person. That said, our blue tribe's professors can sometimes leave a great deal to be desired, as can our high-flying journalists.
At any rate, Florida's professors can no longer teach their teenaged students that one race is morally superior to another! As an overall guess, we'll guess that a lot of BS has possibly been floating around, perhaps not all of it emanating from the demagogue / bully DeSantis.