Over the past two years, DeSantis has emerged as one of the most articulate political spokesmen for the anti–critical race theory movement. His new policy agenda builds on successful anti-CRT legislation in other states but goes two steps further per Christopher F. Rufo’s City Journal “Florida v. Critical Race Theory” article in December 2021:
First, it provides parents with a “private right of action,” which allows them to sue offending institutions for violations, gain information through legal discovery, and, if they win in the courts, collect attorney’s fees.
Second, it tackles critical race theory in corporate “diversity, equity, and inclusion” training programs, which, DeSantis says, sometimes promote racial stereotyping, scapegoating, and harassment, in violation of state civil rights laws.
Following one of his speeches, DeSantis invited Christopher F. Rufo to address the crowd. Rufo explained that the reason critical race theory has upset so many Americans is that it speaks to two deep reservoirs of human sentiment: citizens’ desire for self-government and parents’ desire to shape the moral and educational development of their children. Elite institutions have attempted to step between parent and child.
DeSantis has deftly positioned himself as a protector of middle-American families. One of the guest speakers, Lacaysha Howell, a biracial mother from Sarasota, said that left-wing teachers tried to persuade her daughter that the white side of their family was oppressive.
Another speaker, Eulalia Jimenez, a Cuban-American mother from the Miami area, said that left-wing indoctrination in schools reminded her of her father’s warnings about Communism in his native Cuba. Both believed that critical race theory was poison to the American Dream.
Furthermore, Florida legislators have the opportunity to craft the gold standard for “culture war” policy. The governor’s team has worked with a range of interested parties, including the Manhattan Institute, which has crafted model language for prohibiting racialist indoctrination and providing curriculum transparency to parents.
The battle is ultimately about shaping public policy in accord with public values. “I think we have an ability [to] just draw a line in the sand and say, ‘That’s not the type of society that we want here in the state of Florida,’” said DeSantis. The stakes are high—and all eyes are on Florida to deliver.
No Cause for Controversy
When Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill into law, banning public school teachers from kindergarten through third grade from holding classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, most Progressives saw it as an attack on LGBT rights.
As noted in the Thom Nickels “No Cause for Controversy” City Journal May 2022 article: Overnight, the inflammatory and misleading moniker “Don’t Say Gay” was applied to the new law, setting off alarms across the country. Hysteria over Florida’s mischaracterized “Don’t Say Gay” law largely involves obscuring the fact that it applies only to children under age ten.
New York City mayor Eric Adams launched a digital campaign in five Florida markets to condemn the law, while the ACLU began its own campaign: “Just Say ‘No’ to ‘Don’t Say Gay.’” The ACLU suggested that the Florida law could keep classic authors like Langston Hughes and American poet Walt Whitman out of school libraries. Former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said that the law would result in suicides of young LGBT people.
NPR’s coverage of the story skirted objectivity when it highlighted the view that the law would hurt LGBT children, despite DeSantis’s claim that the law would merely safeguard toddlers from a “woke gender ideology.” Progressives are also fixating on what Florida state representative Joe Harding, the House bill’s sponsor, was quoted as saying: that classroom instruction on such topics could be prohibited beyond third grade if it was determined not to be “age or developmentally appropriate.”
There’s much to unpack here, namely: Are first- and second-graders liable to commit suicide because their local public school will not support their emerging gender identity? On the contrary, the notion that third-graders can be aware of themselves as “trans” is a fantasy produced by the woke narrative industry.
There likely isn’t a third-grader in the world who would find it necessary to jump from a tall building because his trans identity (and where would he have gotten this notion, anyway, at such a tender age?) is not taken seriously at school. What Buttigieg and others are really arguing for is preparatory training for schoolchildren on these issues, so that, if the kids eventually come out as LGB (but more likely trans), they will have already been “primed” in these matters.
The Wall Street Journal correctly observed that reaction to the bill in many quarters, both for and against, is overwrought. The bill’s opponents aren’t part of a covert operation literally to seduce young school children into sex. The “grooming” at issue here would be better termed “woke gender indoctrination.” Meantime, the White House has joined the hysteria on the other side, referring to the bill as “cruel.”
As then White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “It is certainly something that is not helping, you know, young people who are members of the LGBTQI+ community who are already vulnerable, already being bullied.”
There appears to be universal consensus on the part of Progressives to ignore the fact that the law refers only to young children slightly past toddler age and not “youth” maturing into sexual awareness.
Content per Christopher F. Rufo’s City Journal “Florida v. Critical Race Theory” article in December 2021, and Thom Nickels “No Cause for Controversy” City Journal May 2022 article, both included in Progressivism Madness: A SAPIENT Being’s Guide to the Idiocracy and Hypocrisy of the ‘Regressivism’ Movement (Winter 2023).