It’s easy to get people riled up and panicked about kids, about a changing culture and about lost innocence. That’s exactly what the right is doing
You could be forgiven for losing track of all the lurid and inventive ways that Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor with presidential ambitions, has attacked education in his state. Last year he signed the Don’t Say Gay bill, a nasty little law that bans classroom discussion of sexuality or gender identity issues – effectively forcing children and teachers alike to stay silent about their families and lives, under the threat of lawsuits. The bill caused confusion and controversy, frightening gay students and teachers, leading to preemptive compliance in some sectors and defiant disobedience in others – and, not coincidentally, drawing quite a bit of culture-war attention to DeSantis himself.
Since then, the Florida governor has repeated the playbook in increasingly ambitious fashion. Last April, DeSantis signed the exhaustingly titled “Stop Woke Act,” which restricts lessons on racial inequality in public schools. The bill prohibits the teaching of material that could cause a student to “feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress,” due to US racial history – the implication being that these are not appropriate responses to an encounter with this history, or that protection from such emotions is more important than a confrontation with the facts.
Moira Donegan is a Guardian US columnist