What did the state of Florida ban?


The constant recitation of script: On the front page of today's New York Times, three reporters describe the struggle Kamala Harris has faced during her time as vice president.

The front-page report starts as shown. A certain framework—one which has occurred to us only recently—quickly popped into our head:

KANNO-YOUNGS ET AL (2/6/23): Kamala Harris was frustrated. The text of a speech she had been given to deliver in Chicago to the nation’s biggest teachers’ union was just another dreary, scripted talk that said little of any consequence.

As Air Force Two made its way to the Midwest over the summer, the vice president told her staff she wanted to say something more significant, more direct. She brandished a Rolling Stone magazine article about the backlash against Florida school officials after new legislation barring the discussion of gender identity in the classroom.

The teachers she was about to address were on the front lines of the nation’s culture wars, Ms. Harris told her staff. They were the same ones on the front lines of school shootings. Just blandly ticking through federal funding for education would not be enough. The plane was just an hour out from Chicago, but she said they needed to start over.

By the time she landed, she had a more spirited version of the speech in hand, accusing “extremist so-called leaders” in the Republican Party of taking away rights and freedoms.

According to that account, Harris pointed to an article which discussed "new legislation [in Florida] barring the discussion of gender identity in the classroom." In her speech, Harris wanted to challenge legislation like that!

We don't know what actually happened on that plane trip to Chicago. We do know that the highlighted statement in the Times is a massaged and misleading account of that Florida law.

In fact, the Florida law in question only forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through Grade 3. Why didn't the New York Times news report present that more accurate account of what the law actually says?

We have no way to answer that question, but one possibility popped into our heads. They may have avoided the more accurate account because the more accurate account might not sound all that crazy to a large number of New York Times subscribers.

Is that why the Times report gives a limited, perhaps misleading account of that Florida law? We have no way of knowing, but it has begun to occur to us, even at this very late date, that almost everything we read and hear these days is derived from Storyline.

We want to hear that Florida's nuts, and so the Times provides an account of a law which gives us what we want. Is that what happened in this instance? We have no idea.

We don't have any way of knowing how that massaged account of the Florida law ended up on the front page of today's New York Times. That said:

This afternoon, we were struck by Trip Gabriel's brand-new report, in which he gives a more complete account of that Florida law—and says that the public supports it!

Gabriel is reporting on education messaging which is starting to surface as Trump, DeSantis and Haley jockey for position in the GOP's pre-primary run. 

Gabriel mentions that same provision from that same Florida law. But he describes the provision more faithfully, and dear God! 

He says the provision is polling well, and not just among Republican voters:

GABRIEL (2/6/23): Last year, [DeSantis] signed the Parental Rights in Education Act, banning instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early elementary grades.

Democrats decried that and other education policies from the governor as censorship and as attacks on the civil rights of gay and transgender people. Critics called the Florida law “Don’t Say Gay.”

Polling has shown strong support for a ban on L.G.B.T.Q. topics in elementary school. In a New York Times/Siena College poll last year, 70 percent of registered voters nationally opposed instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary grades.

“The culture war issues are most potent among Republican primary voters, but that doesn’t mean that an education message can’t be effective with independent voters or the electorate as a whole,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, who worked for Mr. DeSantis during his first governor’s race in 2018.

Gabriel gave an accurate account of the Florida law. And dear God! 

According to Gabriel, "70 percent of registered voters nationally opposed instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary grades." And that happened in a survey conducted by the Times itself!

In recent weeks, it has begun to seem to us that everything we read and hear is a form of recitation of script derived from Storyline. Here within our failing blue tribe, our tribunes keep putting their thumbs on the scales, handing us the porridge they know we prefer.

Not only do we get misled in the process. We may end up shaking our fists at provisions of law the bulk of the voters like.

Our tribunes keep giving us what we want. But do they know what we need?

Links to the survey and to Harris' speech: To review the results of that NYT/Siena survey, you can just click here

As you can see, Question G48 asked this: "Do you support or oppose allowing public school teachers to provide classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity to children in Elementary school (grades 1 to 5)?"

Respondents strongly opposed the proposal, 70 percent to 27 percent—and the question on the survey extended through Grade 5! For the record, black respondents were opposed, 57-40. Hispanic respondents were opposed, 65-32.

To peruse the text of Harris' speech, you can just click here. For the record, she gave an accurate account of the provision of the Florida law in question. Above the fold on this morning's front page, the Times massaged things a bit. 


  1. Poor Kamala! Please forgive us as we have to go cry into a pillow now. For a few minutes.


    "...and says that the public supports it!"

    But that's because the public is deplorable, dear Bob.

    ...not only is the public racist, misogynist, and homophobe, dear Bob, they don't ever fantasize about wimmin trapped into men's bodies, if you can believe that... Such a shame...

    1. Mao,
      You were funnier when you pretended you weren't madly in love with the Establishment.
      Now, you just post lazy, bigoted nonsense like any other dime a dozen Republican Congressmen.


    2. Thank you for your confession, dear psycho-dembot.

      ...and now, isn't it time for your next booster shot, dear? It's good, and it's safe, and it's slows transmission in hamsters.

  2. David in Cal might want to read this:


    1. Thanks for the link, @5:29. Yes, Scott McKay's views are appalling. Eric Trump shouldn't be palling around with him.

      This is no reflection on Donald Trump. His personal conduct and his policies show him to be the best friend to the Jews of any President. There are many things wrong with Donald Trump, but his attitude toward the Jews isn't one of them.

    2. If Eric is no reflection on Donald Trump, then Hunter is no reflection on Joe Biden either. Fair is fair.

      You don't think that Donald Trump palling around with two known white supremacist Nazi Jew haters isn't wrong for him to do? Recall his dinner with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, two notorious Jew haters.

      If you excuse that in Trump, I will start to question your attitude toward the Jews.

    3. If Eric is no reflection on Donald Trump, then Hunter's friend is no reflection on Joe Biden either.

      That's the accurate analogy. Donald's son did not say or do anything wrong,

    4. Except Hunter didn’t pal around with Nazis but Eric & Trump both did.

    5. I hear the Proud Boys and Jews are merging.

    6. @8:23 Not funny

    7. Here is for those who consider joking about Nazis so so funny:

      "Two people, including a known neo-Nazi leader, were arrested last week after the FBI interrupted their plot to attack the Baltimore power grid, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland announced Monday morning.

      The FBI views the two people, identified as Sara Clendaniel and Brandon Russell, as "racially or ethnically motivated" extremists.

      NBC News reports that Russell is a known neo-Nazi and founder of the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group bent on "ushering in the collapse of civilization," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group admires Charles Manson and supports "the idea of lone wolf violence," according to the Anti-Defamation League.

      According to U.S. Attorney Erek Barron, the two were arrested on criminal complaints of conspiracy to destroy an energy facility, after they "took steps to shoot multiple electrical substations in the Baltimore area."

    8. Except Hunter didn’t pal around with Nazis but Eric & Trump both did.

      And this is where David disappears, and crawls back under his rock.

  3. "GABRIEL (2/6/23): Last year, [DeSantis] signed the Parental Rights in Education Act, banning instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early elementary grades"

    Somerby lauds Gabriel for adding the phrase "in early elementary grades" but does Somerby know that those early grades are the ages when gender identity formation is occurring, when boys learn how to behave like boys and girls learn the behaviors of girls? Gender is well learned by the older grades. It is only the younger grades that may raise questions -- and that is exactly when the FL legislation forbids teachers from being helpful to their students.

    And does Somerby note that a bill named "Parental Rights in Education..." is likely to poll well, especially among low information voters, because it sounds like it is reaffirming the rights of parents, not taking away the rights of students AND parents by limiting what teachers can say and do in the classroom, denying teachers the ability to provide a better education to ALL students? Giving parents some rights sounds like a good thing, but Somerby and that script he is talking about (the one conservatives use) doesn't tell those being polled what the bill actually contains.

    And what does the bill mean by "instruction"? Somerby doesn't ask. Teachers are concerned that it extends to answering questions raised by children. They worry that talking about gender at all might get them fired. So time-honored classroom activities, such as having each child draw a picture of his or her family members, may get the teacher in trouble when the child draws family members of non-binary or gay parents or siblings. How can a teacher respond if other kids start discussing what such a child has drawn? Can the teacher defend a child from teasing, can the teacher even ask a question about what was intended? How can a teacher help the children write the names of their family members on their drawings, without being about to talk about such things?

    Somerby has not thought this through. His knee-jerk impulse to applaud this bill prevents him from making an actual analysis of that script he says exists. As a former teacher, he might have something to add to this discussion, but instead of thinking about the bill itself, he whines about those three extra words, limiting the teaching in exactly the critical years when gender and identity are developmental issues for children, the years when teachers are most needed to help small children understand which gender they are and what society expects of girls and boys. Fourth grade is too late -- the boys are already playing with the boys, and the girls with the girls, and they won't worry about it again until adolescence, when identity issues are revisited during puberty. But Somerby would rather abandon the children to politics, instead of educating parents about why gender identity "instructions" is important to the preschool and early elementary school curriculum.

  4. "In recent weeks, it has begun to seem to us that everything we read and hear is a form of recitation of script derived from Storyline."

    Somerby hasn't changed his own storyline here since 2015 when Trump declared he was running for president. Whatever the actual topic in the media, Somerby has a way to pretend that liberals are all about storyline (without thinking at all) whereas Republicans do what? They clearly don't think for themselves and it is hard to see them veering from Tucker Carlson's storyline, or Trump's either. Even the ones who now say they don't like Trump are still spouting his storyline. And the right actually punishes its members from diverging from the preferred narrative. Liberals don't do that much. But Somerby only notices what he considers to be storyline when it is on the left, even though not everything he calls left storyline is actually coming from the left, nor is it uniform talking points, as occurs on the right. So it seems that Somerby is spending a lot of time trying to impose his version of imaginary storyline on hapless journalists, without any effort to examine what the left actually believes.

    For example, how can there be a storyline on the left about FL school legislation when a large percentage of the left (most likely uninformed about the law, but nevertheless supporting it) is apparently not supporting the left's storyline about FL laws? Somerby is trying to have this both ways. The media is repeating storyline, but the liberals polled don't follow the storyline at all? How can that happen if liberals all follow storyline?

  5. anon 6:01 - you distort TDH's [post - he criticizes the MYT for omitting that the law only applies to students up to grade 3. Why isn't that a valid point? Also, is it your position that kids in grades 1 thru 3, seven or eight year olds, should be taught that just because they are biologically male or female, that has nothing to do with whether they are a boy or a girl, that they could be a girl even if they had a penis, or vice versa, or maybe even neither? Is that what should be taught to them?

    1. It is a trivial point, another tiny nit-pick that Somerby makes into a giant complaint.

      Your straw man about what someone might say to a child in school about gender or sexual identity is ridiculous. I cannot imagine any teaching saying anything like that as part of "instruction." I am pointing out that you cannot ask a child who the members of the family depicted in the child's own drawing are to them -- under the terms of this law.

      If a child happens to mention that his sister has a penis, the teacher is forbidden from responding. That makes the teacher ineffective at helping that child in whatever manner might be appropriate (left to the teacher's discretion, as all such unusual children's comments are in the typical classroom absent such restrictions). A female child might be a bit fuzzy about what a penis is, even at age 7. Do you contend that the teacher should leave such a child confused, assuming she will be straightened out before it becomes important? Or do you think the teacher's job is to educate children?

      It is my position that teachers have been taught in their college education courses how to deal with children at different developmental stages, that they have been given a curriculum and taught how to implement it, during training by their school districts, and that they have mentor teachers and supervisors to help them decide how to deal with difficult questions that may arise in their classrooms. They do not need DeSantis and similar middle aged or elderly men with no training whatsoever, putting restrictions on how they should do their jobs. Micro-managing curriculum and teaching practices is a very bad idea, in my opinion, and doing so under the threat of being fired is an even worse idea. I think this is especially true in a situation like many schools are facing, where there is a shortage of good, well-trained teachers. The less meddling the better, in my opinion. Somerby should know that, in my opinion too. Instead he is quibbling over something Kamala Harris purportedly said in her speech, that disagrees with the Republican storyline. So he is defending conservative storyline, not trying to clarify what might be best for children, even in FL.

      Every day, it amazes me that Somerby seems to think this matter of storyline is a huge issue, worth repeating over and over, and yet he can only find trivial examples of it. The limitation to the early grades doesn't make it obvious that teachers should be so restricted -- it makes it obvious that the legislators shouldn't have meddled in something they do not understand well. And Somerby's idea of common sense runs counter to developmental psychology and teaching practice for decades, has nothing to do with wokeness, and should be something he learned himself, except that he was trained by Teach for America instead of a solid college education and never remedied the deficiency in his spare time, during the 10 years he was a teacher.

  6. If you eliminate gender and sexual identity instruction in early grades, you do away with the beloved dress up corner that is part of every early education classroom. It is where the clothes related to gender and occupational roles are hung on pegs so that kids can put them on and play dress up games, role-playing games in which they play mommy, daddy, fire fighter, mail carrier, and so on. Make believe is an important part of how young children learn such roles. If the teacher cannot foster such play, how will kids develop? Parents shouldn't want them to be denied these opportunities for socialization into gender roles. But that is exactly what the FL law says cannot be done at the appropriate developmental stage. Because that's what happens when frightened Republican adults are allowed to mess with curriculum.

    Next, legislators will be telling teachers they cannot read any books to children unless the binary gender roles are clearly linked with names like Susie and Bert and not Sandy and Pat (way too ambiguous) and we will be back to skirts only for women, because pants are just too ambiguous for today's confused men.

  7. Don't be fooled. This essay is not about storyline. It is an attack on Kamala Harris for being woke by rewriting her speech to defend young children from DeSantis. Notice that not only is she black but she is also female and a liberal. That is an irresistible three-fer for Somerby.

    I am surprised and disappointed that Somerby missed the opportunity to call Trip Gabriel, who covers presidential campaigns, underqualified to write about education. He usually complains when there is not a dedicated education writer assigned by the NY Times, to cover even the most casual mention of an education issue, even when it arises during coverage of the VP's activities. He really missed the boat on that one!

  8. How did this reporting error occur? Some theories

    1. Reporters Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Katie Rogers and Peter Baker and their editor are all ignorant of the terms of the Florida law. They all believe that "never say gay" was an accurate description.

    2. The Times may intend that a large number of voters never find out what DeSantis's law actually says. Since many news outlets follow the Times, this is not implausible.

    3. The Times intentionally made this mistake in order to make DeSantis look bad, since he might be the Republican Presidential nominee.

    4. The Times was simply too carless to note the difference between a law that applies through Grade 3 vs. a law that applies throughout school.

    It will be informative to see what kind of correction the Times makes.

    1. For 2, the Times described the law in greater detail when it was first proposed and passed. It cannot do that every time it mentions the law subsequently -- not enough space, especially when it is tangential to some other current event being reported, as in this case with Kamala Harris's speech.

      For 3, you are being majorly paranoid. Note that Harris also might be the Democratic presidential nominee.

      You left off 5, which is that it is too peripheral to the subject under discussion to warrant that much detail and Somerby is just being excessively nit-picky.

      I don't consider this a reporting error at all. What is your evidence that there will be any kind of "correction"? Note that this was a speech about our government's education policy and funding, not a discussion of DeSantis or his law(s).

    2. @9:35PM - Drink!

    3. You will note, every theory DinC lists frames conservatives as some kind of victim. Grieve on David, and go crawl back under your rock.

  9. Here is the language in the Florida bill:

    “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

    Instruction is banned up through grade 3, but the phrase “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards” applies to all grades from 4 through 12. Is Somerby aware of this?

    He also needs to ask himself if the vagueness of the law is a good idea. Sure, everyone agrees that they oppose “instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity”. But what exactly fits that description? Teachers and school districts can face severe penalties if a parent decides that a teacher has been providing “instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.” But since that isn’t defined by the law, teachers cannot know for sure whether they have violated it.

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