Saturday Soother – February 4, 2023

The Daily Escape:

Grist Mill, Brewster, Cape Cod, MA – February 2023 photo by Nick Haveran

Ah, Florida. Wrongo and Ms. Right will be making our annual visit to the land of DeSantis in late March to see family. Florida has always been a destination for older Americans who are tired of the -2°F with the windchill making it feel like -25°F that we had last night in Northwestern Connecticut.

Martin Edic in his Medium column has it right:

“Picture a…retirement community with rules set by a Homeowner’s Association or HOA. An idyllic place to see out one’s final years, undisturbed by the reality of the outside world.

And then a man is elected leader of your HOA and he becomes consumed by writing rules and dictating how you should live your life….Welcome to the State of Florida under Ron DeSantis.”

Historically, Florida’s population skewed older. But its demographics have changed, driven in part by a large Latino population that is traditionally politically conservative. The older voters and the Latino block have become fertile ground for wedge cultural issues like those put forth by its governor Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis has a vision for Florida: His vision says that slavery really never happened in the Deep South, but if it did, it wasn’t as bad as people in the North say.

But since that’s controversial, DeSantis has ordered the Florida educational system to eliminate curriculum that differs from his worldview: No black history. No recognition that gay and gender fluid people exist.

His vision is to lesson plan by state government. If DeSantis says slavery was not a legitimate issue in Florida history, then it wasn’t. If kids have questions about their sexuality or gender preference, make it illegal for them to learn about it. Also make it illegal to help them.

So it’s no surprise that as we enter Black History Month, DeSantis announced a proposal to all but remove both the teaching about that history and the descendants of those who survived it from Florida’s public schools and universities:

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that he intends to ban state universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives….It really serves as an ideological filter, a political filter…”

In a press release about the legislation, his office called diversity, equity and inclusion programs “discriminatory” and vowed to prohibit universities from funding them. From CNN:

“The proposal is a top priority for DeSantis’ higher education agenda this year, which also includes giving politically appointed presidents and university boards of trustees more power over hiring and firing at universities and urging schools to focus their missions on Florida’s future workforce needs.”

DeSantis has seen his standing among conservatives soar nationwide following his public stances on hot-button cultural and education issues.

He announced his higher education agenda in Bradenton, a 15-minute drive from New College of Florida, a public liberal arts college where DeSantis has installed a new board with a mandate to remake the school into his conservative vision for higher education.

On top of all that, DeSantis wants to radically change the curriculum of Florida’s public education system:

“The core curriculum must be grounded in actual history, the actual philosophy that has shaped Western civilization,….We don’t want students to go…at taxpayer expense, and graduate with a degree in Zombie studies.”

Say goodbye to Black history, gender study, and any queer history courses in the state. And there’s also DeSantis’ criticism of the College Board’s new curriculum for its AP course in African American Studies.

DeSantis announced in January that he would ban it, because state education officials said it wasn’t historically accurate and violated state law that regulates precisely how race-related issues are taught in public schools.

That sent the College Board into edit mode, stripping much of the subject matter that had angered DeSantis and other conservatives:

“The College Board purged the names of many Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience and Black feminism. It ushered out some politically fraught topics, like Black Lives Matter, from the formal curriculum. And it added something new: “Black conservatism” is now offered as an idea for a research project.”

The College Board’s revisions address most of the DeSantis’s objections. Why? Because the College Board makes most of its revenue from AP courses. From Popular Information:

“In 2019, the College Board made over $1.1 billion dollars in revenue, according to documents filed with the IRS. Almost half of this revenue came from “AP and Instruction,” and 40% came from “assessments” like SAT exams. In 2020, revenue shrunk to $800 million dollars. “AP and Instruction” now constituted the majority of revenue…”

For the College Board, right-wing criticism of the AP African American Studies course presents a financial threat. Assessments are dying: Compared to 2019, when 55% of colleges required test scores, only 4 % of schools had a testing requirement this past fall. So it needs more students than ever to enroll in its AP courses.

So much for the Republican’s vision of “limited government.” DeSantis’ objective is seemingly to provide White Floridians with a version of the past that they can be comfortable with, regardless of whether it’s true.

On to our frigid weekend here in the Northeast: It’s time for our Saturday Soother. Try to forget about the Chinese spy balloon slowly traversing the US, or why Nikki Haley thinks she has a path to the presidency.

Instead, put on a turtleneck and grab a seat by a window. Now, listen to Gustav Holst’s “The Planets – IV. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” which can mean gayness (sorry DeSantis) played in Royal Albert Hall in London at the 2015 Proms by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Susanna Mälkki:

terence e mckenna

The conservative movement is far more authoritarian than they admit as they wave flags and chant about freedom. For me a good example of how conservative places (so the South is a good example) is with Robert Frank’s experiences in shooting his photographs for The Americans. Shot in the mid 1950s, Frank was a Swiss photographer in his 30s when he travelled across America. He was stopped by the authorities a few times and even given and hour to get out of town.

So the angry mob at a school board meeting trying to get rid of books that might waken kids minds or an angry DeSantis yelling at folks wearing masks, it is all of a piece.

The Americans was still fresh when I first looked at it in 1970 (while in art school). if not familiar with it, it deserves a look.