Last month, one of my kid’s teachers told students they could improve their grades by watching the film version of the book “Atlas Shrugged.”
The book is controversial — hailed by some conservatives as an insightful and eye-opening testament to capitalism and panned by many reviewers and academics as a sophomoric, logic-deprived attempt at brain-washing.
So you know what action I took when my son talked of familiarizing himself with this controversial piece?
I said: Feel free. And if you want to talk about it afterwards, let’s do so.
Why? Because ideas don’t scare me. Learning doesn’t scare me.
This makes me different from the majority of Florida legislators — and a growing number of parents and activists terrified that students might be exposed to an idea or scientific theory that might shatter their pre-conceived notions and beliefs.
Florida legislators are in the midst of a book-banning crusade .
Last session they passed a law to empower activists who want certain books out of classrooms.
And now, a new bill would allow activists to suggest new books students read instead — and require school boards to solicit bids for the book, no matter how nutty it is.
You want kids to read a book about why the earth is flat? Or how to plan a school shooting? It doesn’t matter. Under this new bill, any request would require districts to solicit bids.
Heck, if you’re the author of a god-awful book that nobody in their right mind would buy voluntarily, you’re in luck! Because nobody in their right mind runs the Florida Legislature — and, as Orange County school officials noted, this law could force school boards to solicit bids for your book, no matter how dreadful it is.
Schools used to be meant for education. Now, they are battlefields for political gamesmanship. Children are merely the pawns.
It started last year when Republican legislators, with help from some Democrats, wanted to embolden book banners.
Responding to the anti-evolution crowd, they passed a law making it easier for citizens — even those who don’t even have children in public schools — to challenge books they find offensive.
A process to file challenges already existed. Parents could already file a formal complaint. But legislators wanted to open up the process to outside activists as well. That way, anti-evolutionists who already pulled their kids out of public schools could try to stop other kids from learning about Darwin as well.
It was a crusade of knuckle-draggers.
The argument was that everyone has a right to influence curriculum that tax dollars fund.
Except that was one big Cro-magnon crock. Because, while legislators invited activists to protest books in traditional public schools they funded, they did not do the same for charter and voucher schools that taxpayers also fund.
Think about that. For argument’s sake, let’s say my take on this bill is wrong — that it’s actually a splendid “accountability” tool to allow everyone to protest books that their tax dollars buy.
Then why wouldn’t you want it to apply to all publicly funded curriculum … unless you’re a hypocrite?
I asked a couple of the local supporters of this bill — Seminole Republican Scott Plakon and Orlando Democrat Bruce Antone — if they could explain the double-standard. Neither responded.
And now, legislators (contact info at www.leg.state.fl.us) are poised to put their double standards on steroids with House Bill 827, the one to encourage alternate book suggestions.
I asked the House bill’s sponsor, Naples Republican Byron Donalds, if he really thought it made sense to force school boards to solicit bids for a book — even if that book had a title as ludicrous as “How to plan a school shooting” or “Why teenage sex is a great idea.”
Donalds replied that he just wanted boards to have all the information about a book, including its cost, before making a decision, saying: “This is simply to ensure that suggestions are given an opportunity for a fair vetting by the board.”
Common sense need not apply.
District officials can ultimately reject the book, but only after wasting time on this top-down bureaucratic nonsense … which seems to be the real goal of all this.
And once again, even though Donalds said his bill was designed to empower taxpayers who fund schools, his bill wouldn’t allow the same book-meddling at taxpayer-funded voucher schools.
Donalds’ resume, by the way, lists him as “a founding board member” of a charter school in Naples.
One thing is clear: Florida legislators don’t need to read any books on hypocrisy. They have that art mastered.