The Florida gang that can't blunderbuss straight!


In search of The Stop WOKE Act: We sometimes think of the Ron DeSantis administration as the gang that can't blunderbuss straight.

The bluster is general; the clarity is quite hard to find. Some will say that the incoherence is a political strategy. We'd quickly add that the mainstream press corps doesn't seem to notice the incoherence, or perhaps doesn't seem to mind.

For a maddening example of what we mean, return with us to Hannah Natanson's recent report in the Washington Post about the four heroic blue states which "have [recently] passed laws requiring instruction on Black history." 

The report appeared last Monday. Natanson started like this:

NATANSON (2/13/23): Even as lessons on Black history draw complaints from Republican governors, who argue the instruction is ideological, several blue states are moving in the opposite direction—mandating classes in African American, Latino and Puerto Rican studies—and setting up a uniquely American division over how we teach our past.

Since 2019, partly in response to the murder of George Floyd, at least four reliably Democratic states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine and Rhode Island—have passed laws requiring instruction on Black history...Connecticut’s law says African American, Puerto Rican and Latino studies must be included in the social studies component of all public school curriculums. Delaware’s mandates that school districts offer instruction on Black history. Maine’s says that African American studies and the history of genocide must be included in state testing standards. And Rhode Island’s orders schools to include a unit on African History and Heritage.

So began the news report. Three cheers for The Blue State Four!

When we read the report in real time, we thought that opening passage was perhaps a bit over the top. We had that reaction because the well-known state of Florida also has "passed laws requiring instruction on Black history," including one widely-ridiculed law which passed just last year.

Briefly, let's be clear! States can pass such laws all they like. It isn't automatically clear that such laws will be scrupulously observed within that state's public school districts.

Still and all, the state of Florida does have such laws on the books. Part of the text of last year's law reads exactly like this (link provided below):

Members of the instructional staff of the public schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education and the district school board, shall teach efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historical accuracy, following the prescribed courses of study, and employing approved methods of instruction, the following:


(f) The history of the United States, including the period of discovery, early colonies, the War for Independence, the Civil War, the expansion of the United States to its present boundaries, the world wars, and the civil rights movement to the present....

(g) The history of the Holocaust (1933-1945), the systematic, planned annihilation of European Jews and other groups by Nazi Germany, a watershed event in the history of humanity, to be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society...

(h) The history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition, and the contributions of African Americans to society. Instructional materials shall include the contributions of African Americans to American society.

That's right! According to this rarely quoted Florida law, educators in Florida's schools shall teach "the history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition and the contributions of African Americans to society."

Also, "the civil rights movement to the present"—educators shall teach that too! 

Also, the history of the Holocaust, "taught in a manner that leads understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping." 

According to last year's law, these are some of the topics which shall be taught in the Florida public schools. For the record, there's more in last year's law where that type of material came from!

Did someone arrange to pass last year's law when DeSantis wasn't looking? Actually, no.

Actually, we're quoting from last year's "Stop WOKE Act," the childishly named Florida law which is often criticized but much less frequently quoted. In fairness to Natanson, she got around to mentioning Florida's (several) laws about teaching black history before her report was finished:

NATANSON: DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin said in a statement that “it is both dishonest and incorrect for anyone to say Florida limits or prohibits the teaching of African American history”—but added that “Governor DeSantis will not allow ideologues to utilize black history as a vehicle for a political agenda in Florida’s classrooms.”

Griffin pointed out in an email that Florida teachers are already required by law to teach African American history, a requirement reinforced by one of the education bills the governor signed last year, called the “Stop WOKE Act.” In addition to prohibiting instruction that could make students feel “responsibility for ... actions committed in the past by other members of the same race," the act says teachers must discuss “the history of African Americans” and “the contributions of African Americans to American society.”

In the first part of that second paragraph, Natanson cites the Stop WOKE Act, saying it reinforces the pre-existing requirement to teach African American history. By our lights, she then goes on to misquote the Stop WOKE Act—though that's where the pair of problems with which we started this report come back into the story.

In the online version of her report, Natanson offers a link to the Stop WOKE Act. If you actually click the link—we'll assume that no Post reader ever did—it takes you live and direct to the remarkably mangled, unproofread legislative mess which you can peruse right here.

Readers, please understand! The Stop WOKE Act has been kicked around in blue tribe circles ever since it was passed last year. 

Given the notoriety of the Stop WOKE Act, you'd almost think that a clear and clean and proofread version of the law would exist somewhere. But as you can see if you click that link, the version to which Natanson links is an ungodly mangled and muddled mess—and we've never been able to find a cleaner version of the famous state law.

Perhaps in part because the document to which Natanson was forced to link is such a remarkable mess, she seems to have misquoted what the bill actually says. For today, we'll leave you with this clue:

The ellipsis which appears in Natanson's quotation is offered here as your clue. If you want to see the way these things work, it can guide you on your "quoted from the wrong section of the bill" treasure hunt.

The Stop WOKE Act has been discussed and discussed and discussed. For our money, we've routinely seen reporters and pundits seem to misdescribe its (admittedly murky) contents.

That said, we've never been able to find a clean version of the bill's text—and we've never seen a mainstream journalist call attention to this ridiculous state of affairs.

Can anyone here play this freaking game? Casey Stengel asked the question first, back when he was managing the hapless New York Mets.

Today, we ask his question again. We ask the question of the state of Florida's blunderbuss state government, but also of the mainstream reporters who seem to be perfectly willing to stumble their way through this partially novelized stew.

Full disclosure: Stengel once told our mother that he liked her because his wife's name was Edna too!

Also, Natanson went to Harvard. Come on, kid! Put it to use!


  1. Thank you, dear Bob, for documenting this minor and completely unsurprising portion of the recent liberal atrocities.

    ...but: yawn. Who cares about your tribe usual brain-dead hate-mongering?

    So, did you have a chance to ask your future anthropologists about the upcoming Joe Ten Percent's Big War, the end of civilization? Did you, dear?

  2. Corporate liberals are dumb hicks.

    1. Better trolling please. You don't even know what the word hick means, for example.

      hick definition: "a person who lives in the country, regarded as being unintelligent or provincial"

      The word "dumb" would thus be redundant. But more problematic, the people who live in the country are largely not liberals but conservatives.

      So this a lie.

    2. What about you? Are you from a big city? A major state?

      Didn't think so.

      You're a fucking dumb hick poser townie. That's what Democrats are now.

    3. Asshole, someone who is from a town is, by definition, not a hick. You Russian trolls should be issued dictionaries before you start typing nonsense here.

    4. You're a fucking hick. That's what Democrats are now. Small town people who pretend to be metropolitan but can't mask their rural insecurities and lack of sophistication. Loser.

    5. Name-calling accomplishes nothing. Go away.

    6. What kind of person hates Democrats for being hicks, and not for their calls for equal justice for black people?
      Not any kind of Right-winger I've ever heard of.

  3. Reading through the law, it institutionalizes the defenses used by white people who have been engaged in discrimination against blacks -- their excuses (I was just being color-blind, it is reverse discrimination to be fair to blacks, a rigged meritocracy akin to unfair literacy tests of the Jim Crow era, and so on). It also eliminates the "character development" portions of instruction in various grades. Why is that a good thing? It institutionalizes a particular point of view (described in text) and makes illegal the attempt to convince students to believe a different point of view. That doesn't seem right.

    The law says that students should not be made to feel discomfort, but that does not seem like an achievable goal, given that many things encountered in one's education do cause discomfort for a reasonably empathetic person. I find this an unreasonable standard. Even working hard at an intransigent math problem causes discomfort. Being selected last for dodgeball causes discomfort. It is not possible for a teacher to ensure a discomfortless classroom. So why is this part of the standard?

  4. Natanson didn't make the law a mess, so why is Somerby blaming her? It isn't her job to point out what a mess it is either. She was writing for a different purpose, that was not Somerby's purpose, but she is not wrong for doing so.

  5. Natanson is quoting from the section titled “Unlawful employment practices” starting around line 44.

    The section about education starts at line 279 and reads in part:

    “e) An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex,
    295 does not bear responsibility for actions committed in the past
    296 by other members of the same race or sex.”

    (This is listed as a “principle of individual freedom.”)

    I’d like to know how Natanson’s formulation says anything different from what is in the law pertaining to teaching. If a teacher tried to make students feel “responsibility for ... actions committed in the past by other members of the same race”, that teacher would be in violation of the law.

  6. “Actually, we're quoting from last year's "Stop WOKE Act," the childishly named Florida law”

    Such a childish name, the “Stop WOKE Act.” So childish! And so named by that childish DeSantis!

    Why, the Act is so full of obvious goodness, it’s bizarre that anyone could possibly object!

    It can’t possibly have anything to do with the crucial business of stopping “wokeness” in Florida! Just a childish misnomer, no doubt childishly conceived by children in the Florida legislature!

    It’s just, there’s a teacher shortage in Florida (“Teacher shortage in Florida among worst in the nation”), with thousands of unfilled positions. What with Acts with “childish” names and vague laws with draconian consequences for teachers, aggressive penalties for the “wrong” books or the “wrong” curriculum, I’d bet Florida won’t be correcting its teacher shortage anytime soon.

  7. On the heels (no pun intended) of Arkansas protecting its citizenry from the existential threat posed by drag queens, I suppose Somerby (and other conservatives) would find nothing objectionable about this:

    “Arkansas Senate approves bill to hold libraries accountable for ‘obscene’ material”

    ‘The bill would remove schools and public libraries from the part of Arkansas law that exempts them from prosecution “for disseminating a writing, film, slide, drawing, or other visual reproduction that is claimed to be obscene.”’

    It’s certainly a nice feature of the law that anyone anywhere can decide if something is obscene, and a librarian can be hauled into court.

    It’s just good old American values, that’s what it is.

    Let’s just get rid of libraries, those institutions of nefarious liberalism, why not? Governor Sanders’ school vouchers will undoubtedly lead to the crippling of Arkansas public schools. Why not libraries next?


    1. So, if we may ask, should Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men be allowed in school libraries? In the school curriculum? In your esteemed opinion, dear mh.

      ...after all, those the greatest, the most famous works of American classical literature... ...y'know, what they call "The Great American Novel"...

      ...please enlighten, dear...

    2. Tom Sawyer was a jerk, killing birds is cruel, mice and men suggest evolution.

  8. Want to know what’s happening in the science of reading?

  9. I will once again direct readers to Curmudgucation on DeSantis:

    The title of the essay is “FL: DeSantis Clamps Down On Ideological Impurity, Targets More School Board Members.”

    Can’t have Democrats on school boards, can we?

    This must be the demagoguery Somerby claims to see in DeSantis, but somehow never reports on.

  10. Only a dimwit would fail to see that the purpose of the recent Florida laws about teaching, including the stop WOKE act, is to enforce a conservative ideology in schools.

    They’re not going to write it that blatantly into a law, precisely because they aren’t bumbling children enacting childishly named laws.

    So the Act calls for the teaching of African American history, or the Holocaust. Yay! Who thinks those things aren’t already being taught, except a dimwit? The law will be used as a pretext to get rid of teachers who espouse liberal views. Some parent will complain that their child’s teacher was teaching that “ White people today are responsible for the treatment of blacks in the past”, based on hearsay evidence. That teacher will likely be fired, because it will be too time consuming and too expensive to defend him or her.

    1. mh -- I think you're unintentionally maligning liberals. Is it conservative to believe that gay sex should not be taught in kindergarten through third grade? Is it conservative to believe that libraries shouldn't provide pornography to young children?

      BTW you ask, rhetorically, Who thinks African American history, or the Holocaust aren’t already being taught, except a dimwit? Well, some liberals apparently imagine that these things aren't being taught in some conservative areas.

    2. Like in TX where they wanted to call it involuntary relocation? What do kindergarten kids say in class when they have two daddys or two mommies? No library gives porn to children. You are really bent to imagine such things.

    3. It takes a remarkably depraved mind to imagine that gay or heterosexual sex for that matter are taught to kindergartners in public schools. Leave it to Fox viewers to conjure up the thought of a kindergarten teacher doing so. Why stop there if it is motivational? I declare that the law has not gone far enough and should mandate against the teaching of bestiality in grades 1-3. That really puts me on God's side in this culture war. Better the time be spent on teaching safety in the use of handguns and automatic weapons.

    4. I hear the number of pregnancies for 5 to 8 year olds is down drastically, since schools started teaching gay sex from Kindergarten to Third Grade.

    5. If you try to teach a young child something they are not developmentally ready to understand, it just goes over their head, like Einstein's theories with Somerby. It does't traumatize them. But young children do talk about sex amongst themselves in a childlike way. It is helpful for teachers to correct some of their more fanciful ideas about where babies come from.

  11. This law won't stop teachers from telling students that the clergy are rapists, will it? Because that is a terrible way to protect children.

    1. When I was a kid I knew a lot of priests who weren’t rapists.

    2. 2:04,
      If I had that kind of luck, I’d buy a Powerball ticket.

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