Ron DeSantis, Phoenix
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) wants to control what students learn, read and think. That is likely a winning strategy to win the GOP nomination. The question is whether the rest of America is on board with backing a book burner.

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In a very heated political environment, people are often quick to toss around labels that they probably don’t understand, like “Nazi” or “communist.” So let us stress right from the start that Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is (likely) not a Nazi and he is (definitely) not a communist. That being said, Nazis and communists would probably high-five DeSantis for his bold approach to reeducation in Florida.

To start with, the right wing’s favorite culture warrior has found a novel solution to America’s racism problem: Let’s not talk about it.

Essentially, that is what Florida’s infamous Stop WOKE Act does. In a nutshell, it allows topics like slavery, segregation (something millions of people still alive today witnessed in person), or other forms of racial oppression to be discussed — just not in a way that makes anybody feel bad about it or upset with the people doing the oppressing.

Ironically, DeSantis and other proponents advocating this type of thought control claim their legislation is meant to stop the politicization of education. Therefore, and because politicians love semi-clever acronyms, the WOKE in the bill’s name stands for “Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees.”

It would be more appropriate if it stood for “Wrecking Our Kids’ Education.” Because, while the US education system may have plenty of flaws, the excessive teaching of history — and especially educating students about the many wrongs and atrocities their country has committed — isn’t one of them. In fact, there should be much more of it because those ignorant of the evils of the past are doomed to repeat them.

But DeSantis doesn’t stop at trying to control what can be taught and how people should feel.

Apparently, he also doesn’t want students to learn about these “bad” topics on their own.

That’s why Florida teachers face felony prosecution for making “unvetted” books available to their students.

If you are wondering what an unvetted book looks like, here is a list of DeSantis’s approved reading materials:

-Mein Kultur Kampf by Ron DeSantis

-Feeling Good About Slavery A Cheerful Look at History That Won’t Make Students Feel Bad

Socialists and How to Spot Them by Joseph McCarthy

A Complete History of the United States from 1776 to 1860 and 1865 to Now

The Trail of Tears Was Really the First Caravan of Brown People by Sean Hannity

Roots How the Migration of African Workers Began White Replacement by Tucker Carlson

Uncle Tom’s SCOTUS by Clarence Thomas

DeSantis and his allies characterize their anti-knowledge crusade as a fight against indoctrination. Let’s take a closer look at this claim. To them, “indoctrination” means that young people go to college and develop radical ideas — e.g., that women should have a say over their own bodies or that a couple of dudes who love each other should be allowed to get married.

That’s the opposite of indoctrination. It’s what happens when kids go off into the real world and experience a version of it that differs from the one they learned about from their Fox-watching parents or in Sunday school.

And it doesn’t have to be that way. For example, it is entirely possible that a young man can attend Yale and then Harvard’s Law School and emerge as a right-wing governor-wannabe authoritarian. That’s what DeSantis did.

His educational background shows that the governor isn’t an idiot. He may be a zealot, but he plunges himself from one culture war into the next because it will get him support from the GOP if and when he runs for president.

They don’t care what his record is as governor or that a million Floridians are about to lose their Medicaid coverage under his watch. They just want a guy who fights the evils that reverberate in their echo chambers.

As Donald Trump has shown, that is a winning formula in a Republican primary.

The real question is whether American voters will allow him to turn the page after securing the nomination. He’s going to try to portray himself as anything but a right-wing firebrand who wants to ban books rather than allow children to learn actual history.

When that time comes, we’ll be here to remind voters who he really is.  

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