Ron DeSantis transforms Florida's Education Department into his Ministry of Propaganda in stunning move
Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

It isn’t every day that a presumably non-partisan state agency issues a press release with a headline reading like this: “FLORIDA REJECTS PUBLISHERS’ ATTEMPTS TO INDOCTRINATE STUDENTS.”

But that was the choice of the taxpayer-funded Florida Department of Education (FDOE) late Friday. The release -- apparently translated from the original Russian -- announced that state authorities “found 41 percent of the submitted textbooks were impermissible with either Florida’s new standards or contained prohibited topics.”

The man appointed as education commissioner by Governor Ron DeSantis to censor “prohibited topics” is former state Rep. Richard Corcoran. His only education credentials at the time of his selection were advocacy for charter schools (with a brother who lobbies for them) and having called the Florida teachers union “disgusting, repugnant and evil.”

Corcoran hasn’t forgotten his political roots in shaping FDOE as a propaganda ministry for DeSantis.

“Florida has become a national leader in education under the vision and leadership of Governor DeSantis,” the press release beamed. “When it comes to education, other states continue to follow Florida’s lead as we continue to reinforce parents’ rights by focusing on providing their children with a world-class education without the fear of indoctrination or exposure to dangerous and divisive concepts in our classrooms.”

In a spontaneous development that few could see coming, Corcoran’s FDOE public-relations team also quoted DeSantis himself.

“I’m grateful that Commissioner Corcoran and his team at the Department have conducted such a thorough vetting of these textbooks to ensure they comply with the law,” DeSantis said, according to the release. “It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students.”

In keeping with FDOE’s commitment to disregarding that it’s taxpayer-funded and presumably non-partisan, the release added this:

“It is unfortunate that several publishers, especially at the elementary school grade levels, have ignored this clear communication and have attempted to slip rebranded instructional materials based on Common Core Standards into Florida’s classrooms, while others have included prohibited and divisive concepts such as the tenants of CRT or other unsolicited strategies of indoctrination – despite FDOE’s prior notification.”

Contrary to all that, Common Core is a state-level standards program -- used in some form by the majority of states in the nation -- that contains no curriculum content for indoctrinating anyone. Here’s a simple video from an Education Week reporter explaining the current state of the debate over Common Core. Here’s a “myths vs. facts” compilation from the Common Core website.

As to indoctrination, the FDOE press release also had this to say about DeSantis:

“In 2019, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 19-32 to set Florida on the path to eliminate Common Core, develop world-class education standards, and increase the quality of instructional materials, and this textbook adoption is another important step in affirming Florida’s commitment to high-quality, lawful and world class instruction.

FDOE also praises itself for a “transparent” instructional review process, with no pretense of impartiality that -- to borrow Corcoran’s erstwhile phrase about Florida teachers -- seems to review national textbook providers as evil.

“The instructional materials process allows Florida to prevent publishers from incorporating inappropriate, ineffective, or unsolicited concepts and strategies into instructional materials that will dilute the quality of Florida’s nationally-recognized education system.”

For those who wish to study actual indoctrination, FDOE provided this link, which in turn connects to language such as this instructional guide regarding the teaching of K-12 studies. It includes teaching about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, but studiously avoids any reference to “racism” in its voluminous 28 pages of content except for this:

“Example of theories that distort historical events and are inconsistent with State Board approved standards include the denial or minimization of the Holocaust, and the teaching of Critical Race Theory, meaning the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded within American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.

“Instruction may not utilize material from the 1619 Project and may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on the principles of the Declaration of Independence.”

The standards then go on to list eight straw-man concepts it links to CRT and forbids -- as inclusions of CRT -- such prohibited topics as “culturally responsive teaching” and “social justice.” The document condemns “social justice” as “closely aligned with CRT.”

As a result, Florida students are not to be taught such verboten CRT concepts as these:

* “Seeking to eliminate undeserved advantages for selected groups.”

* “Undeserved disadvantages are from mere chance of birth and are factors beyond anyone’s control, thereby landing different groups in different conditions.”

* “Equality of treatment under the law is not a sufficient condition to achieve justice.”

Having thus buried any notion of race-conscious remedy such as affirmative action -- or for that matter the Civil Rights movement, which is only mentioned once as something not to be distorted -- Florida’s social-studies curriculum doesn’t shy away from some good old-fashioned indoctrination of its own.

That would be because “civil education is essential an upright and desirable citizenry that preserves and defends the blessings secured by the Constitution of the United States.”

According to the state, one way to ensure students join an upright and desirable citizenry is to teach them “the root causes of American exceptionalism.” And there’s this:

“Students compare the success of the United States with the success or failure of other nations’ governing philosophies.”

Which, apparently, is DeSantis’ idea of protecting Florida’s kids from indoctrination.