How should college courses be taught?


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.


  1. Thank you, dear Bob, for documenting this tiny (albeit extremely appalling and disgraceful) portion of the latest liberal atrocities.

    Keep up the good work, dear.

  2. Bob,
    Thank you for just having a blog where you defend our nation's racial hierarchies, and not joining your pal, Kyle Rittenhouse, in defending those hierarchies violently.
    We need lots more Right-wingers like you, not Kyle. Lots more.

  3. Bob,
    You're making a mountain out of a molehill. Per "the Others', who I listen to, you can have feelings, you just can't act on them. At the end of the day, it matters not a whit whether students feel guilty about things from America's past.

    Now, let's talk about that Republican clown show in the House of Representatives.

    1. Permanent Breaking News chyron on MSNBC: McCarthy appears to lose speaker bid on ___th ballot.

    2. mh -- tonight's news is that McCarthy made a deal that may lead to his election as Speaker.

    3. Breitbart? LOL

    4. No shit, David. You mean the republican circus is closing down soon. Damn. And I just bought my popcorn.

      You're fucking shameless, David. Go crawl back under your rock.

  4. There used to be a thing called “academic freedom” at colleges and universities. That was the purpose of tenure. To prevent academics from being fired because they say things that are inconvenient or uncomfortable for the State.

    It’s particularly important at state colleges and universities, for obvious reasons.

    But leave it to Somerby to support the State in its fascist desire to enforce its will in academia.

    And I remind everyone that tenure is meant to protect all points of view, liberal and conservative.

    I also remind everyone that this was never just about what gets taught to elementary school students. Now Somerby comes along to justify the State meddling in college and university teaching.

    Has Somerby become a Reactionary? A fascist?

    1. "Given the language of the new law, should Cox have felt that he needed to cancel those courses?"

      Here are some facts that Somerby has not bothered to provide:

      1. Cox is black.
      2. Cox is an Assistant Professor, which means he has not been up for tenure review yet. People in that situation must be very careful not to offend anyone if they want to be voted tenure and a permanent job at their university. (People who are denied tenure must leave their department and find another job elsewhere. It is generally "up or out". Most Assistant Professors try very hard to produce solid achievements while not rocking the boat.
      3. Complaints under this law are likely to come from students or their parents, not from lawmakers or attorneys (who might be able to parse what is allowed or not under this law). College students may think Cox expressed some personal opinion, especially given that he is black, no matter how hard he might try to stay within the letter of what is permitted. Would you take such a chance? There are no recordings (body cams) to prove what was actually said when a student makes a complaint.
      4. Conservatives may be seeking test cases or anecdotal evidence of "wokeness" to spread all over Fox News and he might thus become a target because of being a black sociologist teaching about race, regardless of his actual behavior.
      5. If the line is vague and not well defined, he might accidentally cross that line. This is especially true given that many professors do not write out their lectures in advance and then read them, but talk extemporaneously (for better student engagement) and might be led by a student question or comment during a discussion into saying something that could sound wrong in a sound bite. Again, would you take that risk? I wouldn't.
      6. Defending oneself against accusations, valid or not, is a huge waste of time for someone trying to earn tenure via productivity. Some situations are more easily avoided than dealt with. Cox seems like a smart guy. Why not just stay out of the whole situation?

      But this is how such laws have a chilling effect on academic freedom. If some stranger came into my class to monitor my teaching on any specific subject, I would cancel the class. Many professors dread becoming the subject of some video circulating on social media. It would be even worse to be featured on Fox News or Republican social media, and if your image reached white supremacist sites, could your safety at home be guaranteed when there are so many crazies out there with guns making death threats.

      If Cox has a family, I wouldn't want to expose them to that, even potentially.

      So, who is Somerby kidding when he suggests that Cox didn't need to cancel his courses?

  5. To view it sympathetically, Bob can’t get
    the Confederacy out of his veins. It is much the
    same problem the rest of the Country has.

    1. The Confederacy was insensitive in its dealings with the African-American community.


    2. “To view it sympathetically, Bob can’t get the Confederacy out of his veins. It is much the same problem the rest of the Country has.”

      Anonymouse 4:29pm, in one way or another that is precisely the point.

      We HAVE to make a group into scapegoats as to their genetics.

      We simply must emphasize a color mindfulness, as always. . Anything less than endless racial polemics is capitulation to..,well.. racism… Full circle…stop.,,.

      It’s all or nothing in the way that Bob turning Tucker and DeSantis into creeps is utterly tribal, but still not enough, because even with that, he isn’t rendering up the precise level of enmity, due to his stance on the subject in the first place.

      Round we go.

    3. Can anyone make any sense of what Cecelia just said?

    4. I don’t believe that was Cecelia. Someone stole her identity.

  6. It's a good day to say good things about Nichol Wallace.
    The fat that She is a former Republican, contrary to Bob's
    jeering, really speaks in her favor these days.
    Given how very close Bob's favorite suffering mental
    case came to tearing our very Country, the actual rage
    Wallace brings to the subject has been in short supply.
    And the moderate, i.e. sane Republicans who remained
    quiet threw the whole debauch really let their Country
    down, let us down, let themselves down. And that is
    most of them.
    The truly preening, self satisfied moralists (as
    opposed to moral) are those like Bob, who attempted
    to appease the evil by throwing the decent under
    the bus. Sometimes with silly "gotchas", sometimes
    with simply silence.

  7. She had a big ole booty, I was doing my duty
    I mean, yo, I admit that my girl's a cutie
    But Tina was exotic, Earl's my witness
    With the kind of legs that put stockings out of business
    When I went home, I kissed my girl on the cheek
    But in the back of my mind it was this big butt freak

    That's when I seen her, her name was Brenda
    She had the kind of booty that I'd always remember
    I kicked the bass like an NFL punter
    And scoped the booty like a big game hunter

  8. "In our view, professors who want to promote their own views can always run for Congress."

    There are many academic situations where it is appropriate to give one's opinion as a professor.

    A professor is an expert in his or her field. There are many academic controversies that are discussed in a classroom. The professor does explain the competing theories and the arguments for each, but to fail to give the professor's own view on such controversies deprives the students of access to an eminent person's educated opinion.

    At Harvard University, where faculty are selected because they are at the top of their field, there is a rule that famous faculty must teach Freshman, beginning level courses. This is done so that new students get the benefit of the best faculty members, instead of locking them away and only letting grad students come near them, as occurs at other universities.

    What would make such an eminent person different than any other junior faculty member? The junior faculty know about and can explaint the pros and cons of controversies just as readily as anyone else. It is what their training was about. It is the insights and opinions and experiences that come from a lengthy career reaching to top of one's field that provides value-added to such discussions. It is therefore important for top faculty to express their opinions, their emotions, their anecdotal encounters with famous people, and everything that they bring to their field that a beginning faculty members would not have. That is why Harvard students go to Harvard and not the much cheaper community college down the street.

    DeSantis and Somerby are morons. They wouldn't appreciate the opinions of anything else -- but would most likely sit there judging whether they agree or disagree and finding trivial nitpicks to remind themselves that they are always and everywhere smarter than anyone else, no matter what the field.

    No one is suggesting that professors "indoctrinate" or propagandize students. That would involve leaving out the other people's theories and the specifics of such controversies and just telling students what to put on their exams. But that isn't what college teaching is about -- except in the imagination of right wing know-nothings. No spunky college student will sit still for that anyway. But to leave out the opinions and wisdom of professors in their own classrooms is a huge disservice to young people, who are developing their own views and deserve to be able to test their ideas in discussions that go beyond "who said what" in various controversies.

    Once again, I cannot believe that Somerby was ever any kind of teacher, given his current ridiculousness. He knows better than to present classrooms as he has done today. I can however believe that Somerby might not have a valid opinion that would be helpful to students. For that, I am once again grateful he became a standup comedian and left teaching to his betters (almost everyone else).

    1. My father taught English, first at Little Rock Central High (post 1957), and later at a local university. At one point, during the McCarthy era, he was asked to sign a loyalty oath, and refused the attempt at mind control.

      And as a professor of English, there was always a certain amount of leeway in the interpretation of creative works. He resisted every effort by college officials or other outsiders to dictate what or how he taught his students. He encouraged and challenged them to expand their thinking. I’ve encountered many former students of his who came from some rural town in Arkansas who were grateful for him opening their minds to other viewpoints than the ones they received back home.

    2. Did he do that before or after he married his sister?

    3. Mh, that seems like it would have been a really good job for your father because he could save up and eventually buy some teeth for himself and his sister and his wife.

      Seems like they both could benefit from that.

    4. Hmm. So, dear mh, your father told students from some rural town in Arkansas that some "races" are superior to others and they were grateful for him opening their minds to other viewpoints? Is that it?

    5. Let's all agree the Right hates freedom of speech.

    6. Indeed you do, dear dembot.

    7. I was all set to think maybe ad hominem comments here are decreasing. Is finding ad hominem comments a waste itself ad hominem?

  9. Would you want to take a class with a music professor who wouldn't give you his opinion if you asked who was better, Beethoven or Mozart?

    Somerby gets squeamish because the topic is race, but that is a subject that can be studied and discussed without making white student unhappy about their own white skin.

    1. They were both good. So was Bach.

    2. Yes, but the question wasn’t “are they good.”

    3. Can you read, motherfucker? The question was “who is better.” And you can believe there are classical enthusiasts who have definite opinions on that. Jesus.

    4. Oh, yeah. “Who is better” is very much the question among “classical enthusiasts” on both sides.

      THAT inclination and/or political strategy is the issue that must be addressed and contained, no matter how it rears its ugly head.

    5. You have missed the point.

    6. That’s really not Cecelia. It’s an imposter.

    7. The commenter known as Cecelia tries too hard to present herself (or himself or itself) as erudite and perceptive instead of just typing what she (or he or it) thinks. As a result, she (or he or it) comes of as a pretentious, thin-skinned boor. It is extremely difficult not to feel pity for her (or him or it).

    8. 4th line: "off" instead of "of." It should read "As a result, she (or he or it) comes off as a pretentious, thin-skinned boor."

    9. Reggie Kray, I like your nym.

  10. "...we're inclined to regard DeSantis as a hack and a bully." Hit that nail on the head, Bob.

  11. Replies
    1. That's biased against Republicans.

    2. Bob is.

      People are.

      Pass the ketchup, please.

    3. 7:40,
      Like being anti-fascist.

  12. Compare the career trajectories of Ben Sasse and Richard D. McCollough , presidents of UF and Florida State University to understand how politics played by DeSantis and the republican legislature has worked. First they penned legislation making the selection process secret to the public, then picked the unqualified politician to preside over the number 5 ranked public university in the country. Nice work.