Recently the state of Florida passed legislation that would establish November 7th as “Victims of Communism day”. On that day students throughout the state will receive a one hour special lecture on the evil that regimes who identify as communist have perpetrated against citizens of their nation. The stated goal from the Governor is “to stand for the truth…. [and] It’s to make sure that Florida, every year, will be able to speak the truth about the evils of communism and recognize those who have fought under the yoke and have escaped to freedom.”
In the political electoral arena, this move is a direct response to a key demographic of Florida’s constituency. Florida is home to many first generation escapees,(those who escaped Cuba when the Batista regime fell and were replaced with Fidel) who have a particular disdain against what they label “woke politics” and the socialization of America. The move to label Nov. 7th as Anti-communism day is a populist response to an ideological stance of those in power in Florida. Additionally it is a continuation of DeSantis’s attacks against progressives in his state, likely as he is readying himself for a 2024 bid for presidency and wants to use his office as an example of his presidency for conservatives across the country.
Education is a cornerstone of any participatory democracy. Any curriculum should be based on the premise that, although a curriculum can provide students with predetermined answers it does so in the most objective way possible by presenting as much context of an issue as possible. In this case of Florida’s Ant-Communist Day and the education they provide on that day is extremely specific and does not address the root causes of the atrocities they wish to present. Anti-communist cirriculum is imedietly subjective as it targets the ‘ideal’ of the ideology wihtout understanding how it was employed. Communism was not the reason millions were killed, it is the neglect and megalomania of leaders and cult-styled fanaticism that drowns out democracy which is the problem. From an objective approach to studying communism, the victims of communism are not victims of a single ideology. They are victims of power hungry villains who would say anything to convince a population to die for them. The same goes for promoters of any ideology whether that be communism or fascism.
The problem with Florida’s anti-communism day is that it is a direct response to their political opponents’ proposed Critical Race Theory and stance on sexual and gender oreitnation. DeSantis will employ a politically motivated curriculum that will deepen partisan entrenchment. If Florida wants to focus on how an ideology can lead to mass atrocities they should do so for all ideologies for it is the means by which they are implemented that result in death, not the ideas themselves. Additionally, education should be non-bias. Focusing on one ideology promotes bias and circumvents the critical thinking process. Students should be able to understand how ideological movements can induce populations to engage in fanatical violence, not how one specific ideology did so. This can help students understand a general principle instead of a specific case study. The remedy to stop the undermining of education is not to balance anti-communist day with CRT day, but it is to create a cirrciulum that can identify simmilar themeses that cause societies to subject other human beings.
In going after education, Desantis is engaging in a form of stealth authoritarianism.
DeSantis claims that the liberal agenda is trying to reshape the values of children and expose them to what he considers wrong ideas. Stealth authoritarians often present themselves as an individual who can curtail the erosion of their ideological framework “In addition to democratic reforms, rhetoric that invokes the rule of law, democracy, or constitutionalism is often used to distract audiences from anti-democratic practices.” (Varol pg,1717). DeSantis is attempting to attack the ambitions of the political left by detracting from students the ability to critically evaluate progressivism without preconceived notions that it is quasi-communist, and it will promote the view that social economic policies (socialism) is communism. It will also deepen partisan divides at the youth level which will perpetuate the current means of unruly debate.
The danger of doing so is that “Where information is systematically withheld or distorted by the government so as to engender correlated, population-wide errors, democracy cannot fulfill this epistemic mandate ( 130 Aziz Huq Tom Ginsburg)”. However, DeSantis asserts that anti-communism day stands for truth, yet it is largely a distortion of anti-democratic behavior that focuses on a specific instance of authoritarianism rather than human subjugation in general.
I really like how, in your article, you demonstrated that a link between the alteration to primary and secondary school curriculum and stealth authoritarianism, in Florida. In particular, I think that your recognition that DeSantis’s actions serve to inhibit future voters’ capacities to engage with differing political ideologies without preconceived notions is also particularly illuminating regarding how such erosion has taken place.