Florida’s Mythical War on Gender in Education
From Neera Kuckreja Sohoni, author
In a recent press face-off, FL’s Governor Ron DeSantis was asked about two-term limits for School Board Members. Expressing his support, he rightly pointed out how indefinite terms hurt our democracy. He further clarified that two terms should be sufficient for anyone to get in, grasp, and tackle school issues responsibly and effectively without turning into a career Board Member.
Politicians resent any limitations on them and will surely cry foul.
Santis is challenging education’s echelons in other ways as well. On Mar. 8, FL state senators approved legislation regulating early school lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity. Santis’ signature is a given.
Florida Democrats and LGBTQ-Z activists – ‘the Woke Folk’ are up in arms. Accusing the proposed law of bringing the nation’s gender war to Florida’s doorsteps, they contend that by prohibiting schools from teaching topics that are not ‘’age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students”, it restricts primary school teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with their students.
Further, they decry legislators for their undemocratic stance in ignoring the wishes of some of their youngest constituents. Never mind that the “youngest constituents” whom the law addresses are in no position to responsibly know how they feel, let alone independent-mindedly take a stand for or against the law.
Politics thrives on controversy, and politicians on manufacturing crises. Predictably, opponents have deviously termed the “The Parental Rights in Education Bill” as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” to stir up dissent, and an obliging liberal media is giving free coverage to stir up the pot, and to help mobilize the wrath and resources of the country’s LGBTQ-Z constituency against FL’s Republican leadership.
Other than its clever rhyming, the bill’s false branding and its critique hold little water. Castigating the media for misinterpreting the bill, the Governor has clarified the law merely shields Florida’s youngest students from exposure to sensitive topics in the classroom, and ensures “parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum”.
There is nothing against educating youth in sexual matters – especially in today’s ultra-open society – where children are instantly and unrestrictedly exposed to endless digital coverage of authentic and sordid sexuality, in turn compelling our kids to prematurely ripen.
Unhindered exposure to sex which ranges from porn to abstinence, and from monolithic to pluralistic cross gender sex, along with the increasing hype for free-wheeling rather than puritanic living confounds our young. Unquestionably, explicit informed treatment of sex and gender is necessary, as is the understanding and acceptance that gender is not a binary but has additional nuanced aspects to it.
What is questionable, however, is to introduce sex and gender aspects to the very young and innocent. Kindergartners through 3rd graders, perhaps even those slightly older, need more time and ways to mature than having their minds bombarded with question marks related to gender. This emotionally and intellectually vulnerable and physically unripe age group is solely whom the Florida law seeks to protect against premature instruction in the complex issues of the science, physiology, and psychology of gender formation, proclivity, and choices.
Dishonest critics with a gift for poking holes view this legislation as a Trojan horse which will negatively impact older ages as well. Lessons for older grades as per the new law would have to be “age appropriate,” which opponents claim is ambiguous enough to stifle all conversations about LGBTQ-Z issues for all ages.
Supporters of the bill reject its ‘trickle-up’ restrictive impact, clarifying that while the bill prevents “planned lessons”, it does not ban discussions between students and teachers. Nor does it prevent or prohibit teachers from answering specific questions posed and concerns expressed by students who may be struggling with gender identity or other sex related anxieties.
Democrats are also opposed to the bill’s legal provision. Permitting parents to sue school districts if they think their children have received inappropriate lessons could, critics feel, further stress, even bankrupt, already cash-strapped school systems. This is an absurdly self-serving objection, as liability for gross negligence is widely accepted and applied to all public, corporate and individual entities, with the glaring exception possibly of internet and digital platform owners.
Opponents have threatened they will appeal to the courts for relief. While the judges are rightly placed to make the final call, as parents – not just Floridians but also those residing in California and in other states – we have an inherent duty to exercise our right to have a say in our children’s education, especially about how, when and where they learn the facts of life.
In asserting that right, we are not suggesting that we revert to the euphemisms explaining sex in terms of “the birds and bees do it”. Rather we are asking that as responsible conduits of knowledge, teachers abstain from inappropriately instructing (indoctrinating?) our children, and more importantly, they must not be permitted to be surrogates for parents. When we send our child to school, we are neither renouncing nor surrendering our parenthood.
It is time to honor the adage that children’s identity lies in being children. Little is gained by destroying their childhood through forcing them to grow up faster and exposing them to the delicate and nuanced world of gendered identity and sexuality. It is worse, perhaps even criminal, to tantalize impressionable young to “out” their identity when they feel neither mental proclivity nor bodily pressure from within their own selves to do so.