The Truly Remarkable Thing About Florida's Education Law
It is difficult to remain objective over the Florida education fracas. So much of the episode fires up the amygdala. The innocence of children. The rights of parents. The sovereignty of individual identity. The never-ending scandal of humans and sex. To feign "neutrality" in this conflict is a sort of moral suicide. If none of this matters, what possibly could?
As someone who taught school in progressive enclaves for 14 years, I can attest that there are many good people who oppose this law for fear that it will diminish the humanity of loved ones and reverse the tide of social progress. Although I do not believe that this law will have that effect, I respect the sincerity of those who do. Nonetheless, it remains urgent to speak the truth plainly and oppose the ever-intensifying spread of radical social theory being taught to ever-younger students.
Instances of ideological excess in American classrooms are well chronicled and widespread. We have seen enough to know that the time to act has long since passed. The Florida Parental Rights in Education law is a necessary tool to blunt this advance, even though it seems conspicuously tame upon closer inspection. Its most controversial aspect, from which the clever but disingenuous "don't say gay" moniker was derived, would have been uncontroversial in any other era: "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."
The key term for those still attempting to comprehend this law is "instruction." The target is not the casual reference, but rather the systematic instruction of academic gender theory to prepubescent children. For instance, it has become common for teachers to utilize resources like "The Genderbread Person" in SEL (social-emotional learning) curricula, as well as other ideologically tinged materials that do not reflect settled science, let alone objective reality.
Further, such instruction materials necessarily force teachers to operate beyond their professional depth and predetermined range of responsibility. Teachers are not psychologists. This was pointedly demonstrated by a mother who spoke at a PTA meeting in Spreckles, California after her daughter's teacher admitted to stalking her online in order to recruit her into an LGBTQA+ club. "Do you have a doctorate in psychiatry that I don't know about?" she asked. Also, teachers are not paid by taxpayers to be activists involved in recruiting 5- to 8-year-olds into political causes. Too many teachers have departed the realm of education and entered into the realm of indoctrination, and often with a creepy, messianic air. As such, they must be reined in.
The Florida law prohibits teachers from formally instructing students on these matters before the 4th grade. Until then, the situation will remain in the hands of the students' families and their doctors.
It would be difficult to contrive a more sensible demand in reaction to the current climate. This is perhaps the most stunning aspect of the entire controversy. Beneath the wailing and screeching is an utterly reasonable request.
And as such, it is no surprise that the vast majority of Floridians support the new law, along with the vast majority of the U.S. voting population. Nor is it a surprise that voters who have read the actual text of the law support it in even greater numbers. Even a majority of Democrats back the legislation. And yet, outlets like NPR and CNN, and subsequently their audiences, have reacted to its passage as though it were an edict from the pope. The cultural left's blind spot here is profound. At this point, the DNC and its media allies should be charging Ron DeSantis consulting fees. No one is working harder to elect him president.
"The fundamental cause of trouble in the modern world," philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, "is that the stupid are full of certainty, while the intelligent are full of doubt." For years, the cultural left has taken the Democrat party hostage and forced it to abandon any pretense of intellectual humility, let alone electoral realism. Both parties have undergone bouts of dangerous self-certainty in recent times. The Republican Party was guilty of this during the Iraq war. But it is obvious that today's Democratic Party has claimed pathological self-certainty as its banner. While even the most egalitarian countries in the West retreat from pushing gender ideology on prepubescent children, American liberals appear bent on doubling down.
Because of the emotional component, it is understandably difficult to zoom out and gain perspective. But the current environment beggars belief. Can the cultural left really be so certain of an academic theory — so certain that sex is "assigned" at birth as opposed to "observed" in the same manner as eye and hair color, weight, and length — that they will continue to demand its presence in early childhood curriculum? Even at the cost of looming political catastrophe?
It's still possible that it will relent. But it will require a good dose of humility.
Peter Laffin is a teacher and writer in Laguna Niguel, California. His work has appeared in the American Spectator.
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