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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 2/2/23

The DeSantisization of Public Education, and Developing Modern Republican Policy


Steven Jonas
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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)

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I could not find a good caricature of DeSantis. Sorry. So here is just a photo of the man who is on his way to becoming one of the most dangerous persons in America.

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Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis
(Image by Gage Skidmore)
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As is by now well-known, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has successfully engaged in a widespread censorship operation on what may, and may not, be taught to students in the Florida school/college/university system. There is irony in the fact that the formal announcement that U.S. College Board has acceded to the DeSantis' demands for cutting a significant chunk of the meat of Afro-American history from the Board's advanced placement course on the subject came on the same day as the funeral of the latest Black victim of U.S. police brutality, in Memphis. That irony cannot be understated. Furthermore the DeSantis-outrage just happened to come at the beginning of African History Month, 2023.

(Let me clearly state that I have no criticism for the College Board and doing what they did. They had to. A significant chunk of their income comes from fees paid for the use of the Advanced Placement courses, and about two dozen other states, reflecting the bourgeoning re-establishment of legal racial discrimination in the United Sates. have already made noises critical of the African-American Studies course as it was previously released.)

There are several different speculations that can be made about why DeSantis did this. One is that he is a genuine racist and that while as such, given the modern climate, he has to accede to certain demands made for increasing recognition of the importance of the Black experience, positive and negative, in the track of (North) American history since 1619. But, the thinking would go, based on his personal racism, given his political power in his state he can draw a series of lines around the subject(s).

On the other hand, he may simply be a political racist, wanting simply to stir up the subject to help him achieve his political goals and programmatic ends. First and foremost, of course, that would be helping him to gain the Republican Presidential nomination.

But whatever the case, DeSantis is cranking up government intervention in the matter of what and cannot be taught in Florida schools, colleges, and universities to heights not seen in the South since the formal censorship days of Jim Crow. And because College Board Advanced Placement courses are used all around the country, his intervention will have a very negative effect even in liberal states. This censorship operates at two levels.

The first is the formal one achieved by the political censoring of course content. The second is the climate of fear created in Florida among school teachers and higher education faculty about what might happen to them if they were to slip up and make a mention of or a referral to one of the pieces of forbidden fruit and get reported to some authority for it.

For example, in this day-and-age, in the United States of America: "Florida Teachers Hide Their Books to Avoid Felonies: Panicky teachers in Florida are emptying their bookshelves, afraid of a five-year jail term for having an unapproved book in the classroom." Take a look at that once again folks, and just imagine what might be following it down the pike. If a teacher simply displays an "unapproved book" on a class-room shelf, under this Florida legal DeSantis-monstrosity they would not simply be asked/ordered to remove it. They could go to prison for up to five years!

What books might be included? Well: "In Duval County, which comprises Jacksonville, PEN America found that 176 titles had already been banned, including at least one Berenstain Bears book; biographies of Henry Aaron, Harriet Tubman, Celia Cruz, Rosa Parks, and Malala; a preponderance of books about non-white children and families; as well as those dealing with sexual themes. Weirdly, many focus on stories centered around ethnic foods: Dim Sum, Dim Sum For Everyone!, Dumpling Soup, and Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story are all verboten in Duval." (A biography of Henry Aaron!?! Oh my.)

Further, quoting from Mother Jones: "The revised curriculum expunges discussion of modern initiatives for equality or racial justice, including Black Lives Matter, Queer social movements, affirmative action, and the push for reparations. The new curriculum no longer features seminal figures in modern Black thought, including Kimberle' Crenshaw, a law professor whose work is foundational to critical race theory and intersectionality and who had been included before." (So ironically this summary was published in Mother Jones on the first day of Black History Month, 2023. [Purposely or coincidentally, Es macht kein unterscheidung.])

And what about the prohibition of certain authors from the reading list of the College Placement course other than Prof. Crenshaw. Well, that would include such U.S. authors as the Nobel Prize winning Toni Morrison. What writing of hers, for example, might be found objectionable under the Doctrine of DeSantisization? Well consider this exerpt from an article by Ms. Morrison in "The Nation magazine, 'Racism and Fascism' (May 29, 1995, p. 760):"

"Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then an other, then another. Something, perhaps, like this:

"1. Construct an internal enemy, as both focus and diversion.

"2. Isolate and demonize the enemy by unleashing and protect ing the utterance of covert and coded name-calling and verbal abuse. Employ ad hominem attacks as legitimate charges against that enemy.

"3. Enlist and create sources and distributors of information who are willing to reinforce the demonizing process because it is prof itable, be cause it grants power and because it works.

"4. Palisade all art forms; monitor, discredit or expel those that chal lenge or destabilize processes of demonization and dei fica tion.

"5. Subvert and malign all representatives of sympathizers with this con structed enemy.

"6. Solicit, from among the enemy, collaborators who agree with and can sanitize the dispossession process.

"7. Pathologize the enemy in scholarly and popular mediums; recy cle, for example, scientific racism and the myths of racial superiority in order to naturalize the pathology.

"8. Criminalize the enemy. Then prepare, budget for, and ratio nal ize the building of holding areas for the ene my especially its males and absolute ly its children.

"9. Reward mindlessness and apathy with monumentalized en ter tain ments and with little pleasures, tiny seductions: a few minutes on television, a few lines in the press; a little pseudo-success; the illusion of power and influence; a little fun, a little style, a little consequence.

"10. Maintain, at all costs, silence.

"In 1995 racism may wear a new dress, buy a new pair of boots, but nei ther it nor its succubus twin fascism is new or can make any thing new. It can only reproduce the environment that sup ports its own health: fear, denial and an atmosphere in which its victims have lost the will to fight."

I have to tell you that in the writing of the earlier column from which Ms. Morrison's text above is excerpted, I of course at the time had re-read it very closely. And then for this column, I read it again. Indeed, Ms. Morrison, who died in 2019, might have been describing just what DeSantis and his collaborators are doing right now in Florida ---- and elsewhere, all around the country. As I said then in the column I wrote at the time: "Wow. Did she get it right." Unfortunately, her words are right on the money again.

Folks, we have a major problem on our hands, and the sooner we recognize it the better will we be equipped to fight it. Historically, the Republican Party has been a home for xenophobia and racism since the xenophobic "American Party" of the 1850s was one of its founding components. The modern adoption of open anti-Black racism in the Party began with the development of the "Southern Strategy" by Richard Nixon in 1968. But as in its name, it was focused on winning over to the Republican side the formerly Democratic, racist, "Solid South." Donald Trump began expanding Republican racism to the national scene with his involvement in the anti-Obama "birtherism movement" of 2011-12. But Trump, going back to his early days in real estate with his racist father, was more of an emotional/personal-interests racist than a serious intellectual one, as in my view, is DeSantis.

DeSantis' racism is even more dangerous because it is intellectual (Right-wing intellectual, to be sure) and because he is injecting it into much more than pure politics, that is directly into governing. (Education regulation will be only the first step.) Trump used his brand of "emotional racism," and still will if he becomes a serious candidate for President in 2024. (Of course I think that he won't be one, because in my view he will be out of the country before the race, even the one for the Republican nomination, gets serious, but that is another matter.) Whether or not DeSantis is a personal racist (and I have no way of knowing whether he is or not), in policy he is a serious, intellectual racist, and in so being one, he is even more dangerous for the future of our nation than is Trump.

(Article changed on Feb 02, 2023 at 4:16 PM EST)

(Article changed on Feb 02, 2023 at 7:49 PM EST)

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(Article changed on Feb 04, 2023 at 10:18 PM EST)

(Article changed on Feb 04, 2023 at 10:25 PM EST)

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY). As well as having been a regular political columnist on several national websites for over 20 years, he is the author/co-author/editor/co-editor of 37 books Currently, on the columns side, in addition to his position on OpEdNews as a Trusted Author, he is a regular contributor to From The G-Man.  In the past he has been a contributor to, among other publications, The Greanville PostThe Planetary Movement, and Buzzflash.com.  He was also a triathlete for 37 seasons, doing over 250 multi-sport races.  Among his 37 books (from the late 1970s, mainly in the health, sports, and health care organization fields) are, on politics: The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022; A Futuristic Novel (originally published 1996; the 3rd version was published by Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, Brewster, NY, sadly beginning to come true, advertised on OpEdNews and available on  (more...)
 

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