Academics Fear Florida's 'Stop WOKE Act' Will Inspire Other States

© AP Photo / John RaouxFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando,
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando,  - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.07.2022
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ anti-critical race theory law went into effect on July 1, effectively binding educators’ hands in the higher education system. Professors at colleges and universities will now have to adhere to DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE Act” and teach state-regulated courses on race and identity.
Robert Cassanello, who is an associate professor of history at the University of Central Florida, is challenging the bill. Cassanello, who teaches classes on civil rights movements as well as slavery and Reconstruction, says the bill restricts his ability to accurately and fully teach these subjects.
The “Stop WOKE Act” bill has been challenged with lawsuits by Cassanello, a nonprofit organization called Protect Democracy, and even some businesses including the Vermont-based ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s.
The law, which was first signed in April, makes it illegal both in school and in the workplace to teach students and employees that they can be discriminated against based on their “race, color, sex or national origin”.
Rainbow flag. (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.07.2022
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“An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the individual played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin,” states House Bill 7.
On Thursday, parents and teachers spoke to ABC’s Linsey Davis and shared their views on the bill.
“What our department of education and the department of justice actually said was: making students uncomfortable and having to discuss uncomfortable topics is part of teaching, it’s not that we’re blaming people for being any way, we’re just discussing different perspectives that may be different from your own,” said Erika Cohen of Derry School Board in New Hampshire.
Cohen says that her state is considering legislation called the “Teacher Loyalty” bill, which would prevent teachers from teaching students that America was founded on or by racist means.
“No teacher shall advocate any doctrine or theory promoting a negative account or representation of the founding and history of the United States of America in New Hampshire public schools which does not include the worldwide context of now outdated and discouraged practices,” reads House Bill 1255. “Such prohibition includes but is not limited to teaching that the United States was founded on racism.”
Despite persistent legal challenges to the bill which argue that it violates the First and 14th Amendment rights of Floridians, the bill has survived and went into effect on Friday.
“No one should be instructed to feel as if they are not equal or shamed because of their race,” DeSantis said in a statement on Friday. “In Florida, we will not let the far-left woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces. There is no place for indoctrination or discrimination in Florida.”
Conservatives across the United States had already begun ramping up efforts to effectively block any teaching on the subject of the rights of Black persons, people of color, women, and LGBTQ members. In April, the American Library Association reported the highest number of book bans since 2000, of which a majority focus on the topics of Black persons and Queer identity politics.
And more than a dozen states have already proposed bills modeled after the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans schools from being able to discuss gender identity or sexual orientation with students.
“It’s a trend in the larger culture wars… where you see these politicians trying to throw red meat to the base and stir people up,” said Fairfield University mathematics professor Irene Mulvey.
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