The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

Florida bans threaten democracy

As the U.S. gears up for the Presidential election next year, questionable ideologies are shaping the current political landscape. In particular, Florida is placing limitations on gender studies and foundational racial education in schools.

According to Education Week, in 2022 Governor Ron DeSantis “signed into law legislation that restricted public school instruction on topics of race, gender identity and sexual orientation.”

The new laws strictly forbid teaching critical race theory in curriculum across the state. DeSantis defended his order by saying that critical race theory teaches kids to hate their country and to hate each other.

“In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory,” he wrote in a 2021 press release proposing the new law. “We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other.” These sentiments caused major controversy, and rightfully so.

Looking critically at race does not teach hate but rather promotes the awareness and understanding that we need to build a society built on love and justice. Suppressing students’ knowledge of our country’s complex and painful history around race is significantly hurtful to their identities, no matter their race, gender or religion. Education is a tool rather than a suppressor, used to engage a myriad of perspectives, even those that challenge individuals in power. Implementing such an order hinders students’ ability to form educated opinions. The governor and his supporters are doing nothing but harming students’ knowledge. They are unfairly limiting students’ academic freedom of speech. Educators and students should be able to discuss topics related to race, and whatever else for that matter, to conform

to proper educational requirements. To me, Florida’s limits on race in education mirrors the unjust patterns of our nation’s past.

Also in 2022, DeSantis signed the “The Parental Rights in Education Bill,” which officially banned school instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result, the AP Psychology course was taken out of the curriculum, due to its conversations regarding gender identity.

The College Board responded with a statement saying that this choice “derails the college readiness and affordability plans of tens of thousands of Florida students currently registered for AP Psychology, one of the most popular AP classes in the state.” (The course may be offered again, according to an Aug. 4 article in The New York Times.)

While the Governor believes these bills are advantageous to children’s mental health and development, I strongly disagree. Studies show students who are clearly educated upon LGBTQ+ matters are more likely to defy stereotypes, express sensitivity and have respectful relationships with fellow students.

How might this affect students in Florida who identify as gay, nonbinary or transgender? Education connecting to sexual orientation and gender identity fosters a sense of acceptance that could contribute to building safe environments for those who identify as LGBTQ+.

Taken together, the unjust educational policies promoted by Governor DeSantis enable political agendas that only display hatred, and a desire to hinder knowledge. Florida’s students deserve better.

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