“Give Me 4 Years to Teach the Children…”

“Give me four years to teach the children, and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” So said Russia’s Vladimir Lenin, explaining the importance of taking over the educational system of a country in order to change its entire society. Controlling education, which includes controlling what books students – and in most cases, eventually, people of all ages – are allowed to read, has been one of the first steps many fascist dictators and governments have taken to fuel their rise to power.

Adolf Hitler in Germany, Benito Mussolini in Italy, The Russian Communists, Chinese Maoists and the Red Guard, Pol Pot in Cambodia, among others, all made it a priority to control what books were acceptable and what should or shouldn’t be taught in schools. Currently, Vladimir Putin has been tightening his grip on Russian children’s education as part of his efforts against Ukraine. It’s common enough that many authors of dystopian books use the government takeover of education and the banning of books as a way of showing just how far a society has fallen.

It is against this background that we need to look at the current actions taken by Ron DeSantis in Florida and governors in other Red States to “reform” the education of children in their areas. As I noted in a previous post, their actions are not confined to the borders of their states alone. Textbook publishers want to avoid having to make multiple editions of their books tailored to each state’s curriculum, so they tend to publish books acceptable to the most restrictive states.

Some laws being written to restrict what can be taught are fairly vague, though, in terms of what is or is not acceptable. As such, textbook companies will tend to be overcautious in what they do or don’t include. Recently, the New York Times came across an example of a lesson about Rosa Parks in which the company had at least considered removing any reference to her race:

The New York Times compared three versions of the company’s Rosa Parks story, meant for first-graders: a current lesson used now in Florida, an initial version created for the state textbook review and a second updated version.

Some of the material was provided by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, a progressive parent group that has fought book ban efforts in the state, and confirmed by The Times.

In the current lesson on Rosa Parks, segregation is clearly explained: “The law said African Americans had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person wanted to sit down.”

But in the initial version created for the textbook review, race is mentioned indirectly.

“She was told to move to a different seat because of the color of her skin,” the lesson said.

In the updated version, race is not mentioned at all.

“She was told to move to a different seat,” the lesson said, without an explanation of segregation.

It’s unclear which of the new versions was officially submitted for review. The second version — which doesn’t mention race — was available on the publisher’s website until last week.

The version in which they did not mention race read in its entirety

“Rosa Parks showed courage. One day, she rode the bus. She was told to move to a different seat. She did not. She did what she believed was right.”

Think about that and the lesson it would teach for a moment. Not knowing that Ms. Parks was black and that she was asked to move specifically because she was black and that black people were required to give up their seats to any white person who wanted it, leaves you with a woman who was asked to move and said no. That’s it. It teaches kids that if someone asks you to do something, and you don’t believe you should have to, saying no is the courageous thing to do.

Fortunately, according to Snopes, in an article published after the NYT article, the publisher recognized that removing race entirely was an overreaction and has since changed the text again.

I’d mentioned earlier that dystopian authors often use book burning and banning to show how far a society has sunk. Rachel Robison-Greene at the Prindle Institute noted:.

In particular, readers see these themes explored in 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and The Handmaid’s Tale. In 1984, Orwell describes a “Ministry of Truth” that is responsible for changing history books so that they say all and only what the authoritarian regime wants them to say. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradberry describes an authoritarian regime that disallows reading altogether. In The Handmaid’s Tale, reading is permitted, but only by the powerful, and in this case the only powerful community members are men.

It should come as no surprise that those three books are among the ones being banned in many areas. This is no coincidence. These three books are their authors’ attempt to ring the warning bells as loudly as they can, and allowing people to read them – especially students who are still impressionable even at the higher grade levels that these books are most suited for – could give them the idea that they can try to prevent the fascism to come. And one of the most important things a nascent fascist government can do to gain and maintain power is keep their people stupid.

You hear it now from the extreme right-wing Republicans who want to abolish the Department of Education. They’ve set out to reconfigure school curriculums so that children are only taught about the good things White people have done, ignoring the accomplishments of other races, eliminating teaching about diversity, equality and intersectionality, and banning any books that might teach them otherwise. Donald Trump has even said the quiet part out loud, as is his wont: “I love the poorly educated!”

We need to be far more alarmed than we are at what we’re seeing happen in so many states. Lenin thought he only needed 4 years of teaching children what he wanted them to learn to change the entire society. The big push to ban books and change education began during 2020-2021, so they’ve had at least 2 years already. We can’t afford to give them any more.

The Traitors UK – TV Review

Promotional photo: COURTESY OF BBC.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the US edition of The Traitors, a new show on Peacock that I enjoyed quite a bit. There have been several iterations of the show from various countries, and Peacock is now offering the UK and Australian versions as well. This past week, I binged my way through the UK’s take on the show, wonderfully hosted by Claudia Winkleman, and found it just as much fun as the US version was.

The way the show works is that a group of people are brought to a lavish setting where they complete missions to raise money for the prize pot to be awarded at the end of the show. Certain players are chosen by Claudia to be the Traitors, and the rest are known as The Faithful. The Traitors pick one of the Faithful each night to “murder”, eliminating them from the game. Meanwhile, the Faithful try to determine who the Traitors are, and “banish” them from the show during a nightly Round Table meeting. If the surviving Faithful banish all the Traitors by game’s end, the Faithful will split the prize pot. If any Traitors remain, however, they get the money.

The US and UK versions are very similar, being set in the same castle in the Scottish Highlands, and they use essentially the same missions. These challenges can involve anything from trying to blow up a giant wicker rabbit-monster (you read that right), to finding teammates who have been buried alive, escaping from a rather disgusting cabin within a certain amount of time, defeating a laser field or rolling barrels worth varying amounts of money over some difficult ground. The familiarity of these elements, however, didn’t affect my ability to enjoy both shows.

Programs that pit contestants against each other like this one does can easily become trashy, with some players deciding they’re going to be the show villains, sabotaging other players, creating alliances and then screwing their supposed allies over and otherwise playing down-and-dirty to get the upper hand. In general, I can’t stand those shows. Part of what makes The Traitors different is that – for several reasons – there’s very little of that.

Even though the whole conceit of the show is that a small group of players is trying to deceive the rest, there’s not a lot of incentive for anyone to sabotage anyone else during the challenges. If they want to have any money to win, they have to work as a team. Then, during the downtime, when the contestants can sit around and get to know each other and attempt to suss out the Traitors, the Traitor’s job is to blend in as well as they can. If they go overboard in endeavoring to deflect suspicion away from themselves, it often makes them seem even more suspicious. Of course, some will set out to persuade others they know who is or isn’t a Traitor, and the Traitors have to strategize who they want to murder, but the rest of the time, the atmosphere is largely collegial. The only times they truly play as oppositional forces are when it comes to committing their nightly murders and banishments.

Another thing I like about the show, and which I think helps keep the feeling in the castle lighter, is that the Traitors aren’t self-selected. They don’t volunteer for the part. Claudia chooses them the first night. This provides an extra challenge to the Faithful, as it means they can’t just home in on who seems most likely to want to be a troublemaker, and puts the Traitors in a position they may not have expected.

There’s a lot of psychology that goes into the game, and it’s fascinating to watch how the individuals and their relationships to other players can change. Some build very close friendships, to where they simply can’t imagine that their friend would be a Traitor. Others keep their distance, hoping to avoid that trap. I find this to be the most interesting part of the show. The Traitors have to plan their murders to avoid making their overall strategy obvious, and the Faithful have to figure out – based mainly on who has or hasn’t been eliminated – how they think the Traitors would behave.

All-in-all, I think this is one of the best non-skill-based competition shows I’ve seen in a while, and I am excited to check out the Australian take on it in the upcoming weeks.

Update to “First They Came for the Bloggers…”

I just learned that during a recent press conference Ron DeSantis commented on the Florida Blogger Registration Bill. According to Business Insider, he said:

“That’s not anything that I’ve ever supported. I don’t support it, I’ve been very clear about what we are doing,” DeSantis said of the bill during a press conference on Tuesday.

The bill has received a lot of press – especially in the blogging community, understandably – and has been widely criticized. One perhaps surprising opponent of the bill is former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich:Screenshot of a Tweet from Newt Gingrich saying: The idea that bloggers criticizing a politician should register with the government is insane. it is an embarrassment that it is a Republican state legislator in Florida who introduced a bill to that effect. He should withdraw it immediately.

Neither DeSantis nor a spokesman gave any indication if his lack of support would result in a veto if the bill passes the legislature.

“As usual, the governor will consider the merits of a bill in final form if and when it passes the legislature,” the spokesman told Insider on Friday.

Under Purple Clouds

Chapter One of “Walking Through the Past”

One of the sites I write at, Vocal.media, is running a contest in which you write the first chapter of a hypothetical magical realism book, starting with an assigned sentence. Below is my entry. It’s not a long read, maybe 5 minutes.

I’m not expecting to win the contest or anything as this is my first real try at writing fiction, but I would appreciate any comments or guidance in case I decide to try writing more.

Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. It was a stunning sight, on par with seeing the Aurora Borealis in person, and evey month, hundreds of people came to Elk Grove just to witness it. Initially, some townspeople wanted it fixed, but no one could figure out how. Then many started to find the display quite beautiful, and when it became a tourist attraction, everyone agreed to leave it alone.

There was an old high school tradition that each year, students would create some kind of a sky-show to celebrate graduation. Most classes went for animated writing, virtual fireworks or something to that effect – a display that could be seen from the ground – but one year, the students decided to try transforming the sky itself. The effect was only supposed to last for one hour that night, but it returned again the next night, and the next, and so on for the last 10 years.

Still, it generally made Janessa smile. The colours were beautifully harmonized, and the movement of the clouds was fluid and graceful. Tonight, however, she was finding it hard to smile. She snuffed out her cigarette in an old flower pot, pulled her cardigan a bit tighter around her and went back inside to a waiting N’Davi.

“Honey,” he started, quietly, “I know its hard on you, but we’re just not getting anywhere on this case.” His soft blue eyes pleaded with her. “Since we lost Brett, we haven’t…”

“I know,” she interrupted. “You haven’t been able to find another past reader.” She sighed and sat down next to him on the couch, it’s burgundy leather creaking with the movement. N’Davi put a comforting arm around her shoulder.

“We even brought in a spirit speaker, hon, but the spirit couldn’t help us. He hadn’t seen his killer, so he couldn’t give us any clues.”

Janessa took out another cigarette, created a small flame in her hand to light it and took a long drag. “You know I’ll do it,” she sighed. “I’m not going to let a killer get off just because it’s hard to watch a murder. I just would like…” she paused to take another puff. D’Navi nodded to her, encouraging her to finish her thought. “I’d just like to feel like I had the option of saying ‘no’… that… I don’t know, I just…”

“You just wish it wasn’t always you, right?” he asked, pulling her over closer and kissing her gently on the temple. He brushed her long blonde hair back from her face.

“Yeah,” she agreed. “We do it in the morning.” Janessa looked at her husband. You’d never know he was a cop, she thought. His blue eyes were kind, his broad smile gentle. Even his hair had a soft look to it, numerous black strands creating a frame around his face, the rest somehow managing to look casually windblown and perfectly sculpted at the same time.

“I’ll just send the boss a text so he knows to expect us first thing, ok?”

She squeezed his hand as he stood up, then pulled him toward her for a quick kiss. “Yeah, ok.”

She wandered into the bedroom and snuggled down into their large soft bed. A few minutes later, she felt her husband join her, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close as the skies faded back to black.

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First They Came For The Bloggers…

Image of "New Post" Screen from WordPress

Creeping fascism strikes again as a Florida senator takes aim at bloggers – and the First Amendment.
From WFLA:

Florida Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Lake Mary) wants bloggers who write about Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and other members of the Florida executive cabinet or legislature to register with the state or face fines.

Brodeur’s proposal, Senate Bill 1316: Information Dissemination, would require any blogger writing about government officials to register with the Florida Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics.

Whether the writer files with the Legislative office or the Ethics commission depends on whom the article was about.

The bill would require bloggers to register if they wrote “an article, a story, or a series of stories” about “the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature” and receive any compensation for the post. Once such a story is published, the writer would have 5 days to register with the state. If any further stories about the listed officials are published, the writer would then be required to file a monthly report. They would also have to disclose how much they were paid for the story. Failure to do so would result in a fine of $25 per day that the registration or report is late, up to $2500 per report. The writer also much estimate how much they will earn from the post, though the bill allows later payments to be reported on subsequent filings. The bill exempts newspapers and “similar publications.”

This potential law seems intended to intimidate writers by making bloggers register with the government. Nothing in the bill states what will be done with the information – at least as it stands now – but leaves open the question of what the government might use it for in the future. Given DeSantis’ hostility toward the press, it’s likely he would sign such a bill, and he has a history of going after those who disagree with him.

Speaking of which, Florida is also considering making it easier to sue the press for defamation. A bill introduced by State Rep. Alex Andrade would make it easier to sue news outlets for defamation. The bill is modeled on ideas DeSantis expressed at a recent conference and directly challenges the Supreme Court decision in New York Times Co. vs Sullivan, a 1964 case that created the current standard for being able to successfully sue someone for defamation. It states that a public figure (or private individual seeking punitive damages) must show that a publication acted with “actual malice” – meaning that they knew the information was false and published it anyway – or “reckless disregard for the truth” to prevail. For DeSantis, this is too high of a standard.

Sullivan established a higher bar for public figures to successfully sue for defamation. Not only would the new law do away with this long-established standard, but it would also change the definition of who is a public figure. This law would exclude people who are famous because they are defending themselves against an accusation, gave an interview on a specific topic, are public employees (except for elected and appointed officials) or had an image, video, or statement go viral.

The bill assumes that if a defamatory statement is not verified or corroborated, it is evidence of actual malice on the part of the reporter and assumes that any anonymously sourced information is false by default.

Because the defamation law is intended – as stated in the bill itself – to challenge the Sullivan standard, some of its provisions may end up affecting journalism not just in Florida, but nationwide. Presumably, any challenge to the law would have to go to the US Supreme Court to overturn Sullivan, and both Gorsuch and Thomas have indicated an interest in reviewing that standard.

If these proposed laws don’t seem too bad to you, keep in mind, they can always be expanded. Just as an example, when the “Parental Rights in Education” (aka “Don’t Say Gay”) law was a bill, they offered reassurances that it would only impact students through the third grade. Already, though, an expansion of the law is being proposed that would not only extend the restrictions through 8th grade, with conditions placed on what can be taught all the way through 12th grade, but it would also prohibit anyone from referring to a teacher or student by any pronoun besides the one that corresponds to their gender at birth.

DeSantis loves to say that Florida is “Where woke goes to die,” but clearly, Florida isn’t content with just killing “woke” (whatever that’s supposed to be.) These bills show they are just as happy to go after Free Speech as well.

Feb. 25 – Neo-Nazi Groups Plan National Day of Hate

Burning matches in the form of a Swastika with a STOP sign overlayed on top of them.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

From CounterExtremism.com:

According to Telegram posts located by Counter Extremism Project (CEP) researchers, several neo-Nazi groups in certain locations in the United States are planning an antisemitic “National Day of Hate” on Saturday, February 25. The participants are identified as the National Socialist Movement, two regional active club chapters in Iowa and California, and a small New York-based group. Other groups around the country may also be participating. The announcement post on Telegram encouraged propaganda activities such as dropping banners, putting up stickers and fliers, and vandalism through graffiti.

While activities such as those listed in the announcement are bad enough, there is always the concern that some participants will decide to go beyond the suggested actions.

The Telegram announcement cites 4 groups as the participants, but, clearly, the purpose of the announcement is to get others involved as well. Police in Chicago and New York City have said that they are monitoring the situation:

The Chicago Police Department said in a statement on Thursday, “At this time, there is no actionable intelligence,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “We continue to actively monitor the situation.”


A similar statement by the NYPD circulating online said that officers should maintain “elevated situational awareness” on Saturday – the Jewish Sabbath – for violent extremism.


While an NYPD spokesperson said while there are currently no credible threats, “out of an abundance of caution, the Department will deploy additional resources to sensitive locations, including houses of worship, throughout the weekend,” according to local news.

I’ve written a few posts lately on the issue of creeping fascism, the growing assault by state legislative and executive bodies taking aim at progressive ideas in schools, workplaces and society at large. Here, the fascism isn’t creeping. This “National Day of Hate” is in-your-face fascism intended to keep the public – and in this case, especially our Jewish neighbors – afraid of the extreme right-wing.

Jews have long faced significant anti-Semitic hate. In just one recent example, a twitter user, Rachel Bitecofer, posted a video of a man at an intersection, yelling hateful messages through a bullhorn at any car he thought was carrying Jews. Other common actions have included the desecration of graves, graffiti and vandalism at synagogues and other Jewish centers, the distribution of flyers throughout neighborhoods and, of course, attacks and murders.

Their goal is fear, and the extremists know that the more we fear them, the more power they have. Yes, caution is necessary when combating hate, but fear is not. One of the best ways to combat activities such as this is to keep your eyes open and if you see people participating in hateful activities, report it. For Feb. 25th, when this specific initiative is planned, keep a special look out for synagogues and Jewish Civic Centers or other Jewish gathering places. If you aren’t able to do that – for whatever reason – please at least spread the word so others can. Let’s help shove the fascists back under the rock they crawled out from.

The Assault on Gender-Affirming Care

A transgender pride flag waving in the breeze with 5 stripes: Light blue, pink, white, pink, light blue.

Many states have, or are in the process of, banning gender-affirming care for transgendered kids, even if the parents support and have approved such care for their child. According to the New York Times (Gift Article):

Amid all this legislation lurks the sharpest threat to families like the Neisses: aggressive efforts to outlaw what’s known as gender-affirming care for minors — a range of interventions from talk therapy and social transition, such as adopting a name, clothing style or pronoun without any medical treatment, to puberty blockers and, for older kids, hormones. Conservative lawmakers tend to dabble in lurid insinuations about mastectomies and genital surgery, but, according to doctors, surgery administered to minors is rare […]

I could understand all the calls for banning gender-affirming care for kids IF the care was being provided *without* the parents knowledge or against their wishes. That would just be common sense. If, however, the parents are aware of what is happening and have given their permission for their child to receive such care, then the government should just butt out. This, like abortion, is another situation that should be decided by the patient, their parents (if the patient is a minor) and their doctor(s).

Now that they’ve gained a foothold in anti-transgender regulation regarding children, extreme right-wing politicians and legislatures are escalating their attacks. New legislation is being proposed in many states that would prohibit gender-affirming care for adults up to the age of 26. So far.

Across the country, Republican-led efforts include seeking to ban or restrict gender-affirming care for people into adulthood or placing barriers for adults trying to access such care. […]

In Oklahoma, a proposed bill would make it a felony for anyone under the age of 26 to access gender-affirming care in the state. […]

In Virginia, a proposed bill would ban gender-affirming surgeries for people under the age of 21. The legislation was amended to remove bans on hormone therapies.

It also states that in order for someone over the age of 21 “to receive gender transition procedures, he must first obtain a referral from his primary care physician and a referral from a licensed psychiatrist.”

In Florida:

DeSantis asked to see the records of any student who has experienced gender dysphoria in the past five years. In addition, he wants their ages and the dates they received gender-affirming care. The deadline to submit those records was February 10.

Some politicians claim that these laws that aim to determine whether—and when – someone can receive gender-affirming care, are needed because people may regret having undergone such care later in life, while ignoring that such incidents are rare.

“I think making a decision to permanently alter your body to remove a healthy body part is much more serious than buying a beer,” said Peake, a Republican.

He later continued, “There have been a lot of people who have come out who have had these surgeries and have indicated that they regret it.”

Research shows that rates of regret for gender-affirming procedures are extremely low — estimates are around 1%. Rates of regret for knee and hip replacement surgeries are much higher than gender affirmation surgery, according to studies.

Some states even want to make it possible to sue doctors who provide gender-affirming care if, down the road, a patient decides they regret having received it.

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Ron DeSantis Takes Aim At Higher Education

Ron DeSantis is upping his assault on education in Florida. According to the New York Times (Gift Link), he has now engineered a takeover of the small progressive public liberal-arts college New College by firing almost half of it’s board of directors who, in turn, fired the university president with the goal of transforming it into a “beacon of conservatism.”:

Mr. DeSantis’s education commissioner has expressed a desire to remake the school in the image of Hillsdale College, a small Christian school in Michigan that has been active in conservative politics.

Over 25 tumultuous days last month, the Republican governor removed six of the college’s 13 trustees, replacing them with allies holding strongly conservative views. The new board then forced out the college’s president, a career educator, and named Mr. DeSantis’s former education commissioner, a career politician, as her replacement. On Monday, the board signed off on paying its pick a salary of $699,000 a year, more than double what his predecessor earned.


One of the new trustees, Christopher Rufo, said in early January that the school’s academic departments “are going to look very different in the next 120 days.”

It’s not just New College DeSantis wants to change. His goal is to change public higher education throughout the state of Florida.

On Jan. 31, when the college president was ousted, Mr. DeSantis unveiled higher education policies — to further weaken faculty tenure protections, eliminate diversity and equity programs and mandate Western civilization courses — that for many deepened a chill that had already taken hold across Florida’s public colleges and universities. The state has made it harder for faculty members to retain tenure, asked students and faculty to fill out a survey about their political leanings and requested information about resources for transgender students.

DeSantis’ rallying cry for his assault on public education has been concern that schools are “indoctrinating” students, yet he has no problem with indoctrinating students with a conservative agenda, and in fact seems to think that should be their purpose. These are schools that are not only paid for by the student’s tuition, but by the state’s taxpayers, yet instead of giving students a solid, broad-based education, DeSantis’ goal – here as in K-12 schools – is to present them one single paradigm through which to view the world – that of white Christian males.

Its easy to say that if parents don’t want their children indoctrinated into DeSantis’ extreme right-wing agenda, they can just send their children elsewhere. But where would that be? A significant number families cannot afford private school tuition or the out-of-state costs for public schools in diversity-friendly states – and, of course, many of those families are minorities. It likely no coincidence that DeSantis wants to do away with any kind of studies that would allow minorities to learn the history and achievements of people like themselves. He’d rather keep them thinking that all the good in the world comes from the hand of white Christians.

This kind of widespread whitewashing of Florida’s public education is part of DeSantis’ growing fascism, and not only is it pushing minorities back into a lower place in the social hierarchy, it’s attracting more fascists to the state:

As DeSantis increases attacks on the #LGBTQ community and beyond, Neo-Nazi organizers are moving to Florida to grow their movement.

Recently, a small group of neo-Nazi Groypers, followers of Nick Fuentes, have attempted to hold events across #Florida campuses lauding Adolf Hitler and promoting Holocaust denial, all under the banner of Kanye West’s run for president in 2024.

In addition to seeing Florida as a friendly place to recruit new members, as DeSantis’ creeping fascism continues to spread to all areas of the state, Neo-Nazis and Christian Nationalists will see it as a great place to raise famlies where their kids can be safe from learning about slavery, the nation’s treatment of Native Americans, the white fight against minority civil rights and – most importantly, I suspect – the still-evolving repercussions of our national sins.

If DeSantis and his fascist fans aren’t going to be happy with a right-wing extremist takeover of Florida – they want the whole country. Many tried to warn of the dangers Donald Trump posed and we came close to losing our Democracy because people didn’t take the message seriously. This time we really can’t afford to lose. After the disaster Trump proved to be, people may be more willing to hear the warnings this time. Adding your voice can help make sure there are plenty of warnings for them to hear.

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