New York Times *Loves It* Some Goose-Stepping Dictator Ron DeSantis!
Video screenshot, WJXT on YouTube

Yesterday, after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his plans to take a Stalinist level of control over higher education in Florida, the New York Times ran a story that practically beamed with admiration at what a bold move DeSantis had taken, gushing in a headline,"DeSantis Takes On the Education Establishment, and Builds His Brand," as if what mattered here were the savvy way DeSantis is marketing his war on public and higher education, not the damage it will do to Florida schools and students.

The lead paragraph is all about what a savvy culture warrior DeSantis is, with his vows to "take on liberal orthodoxy and its champions," and then moves on to his various made up battles against all the woke — again, framing all this as if it were merely the stuff of ordinary politics:

But his crusade has perhaps played out most dramatically in classrooms and on university campuses. He has banned instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade, limited what schools and employers can teach about racism and other aspects of history and rejected math textbooks en masse for what the state called “indoctrination.” Most recently, he banned the College Board’s Advanced Placement courses in African American studies for high school students.

On Tuesday, Governor DeSantis, a Republican, took his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment, announcing a proposed overhaul of the state’s higher education system that would eliminate what he called “ideological conformity.” If enacted, courses in Western civilization would be mandated, diversity and equity programs would be eliminated, and the protections of tenure would be reduced.

Well that certainly is "aggressive," all right. It's also just about the only detail we get on a pretty radical assault on academic freedom. The story continues in that vein, noting that his "pugilistic approach was rewarded by voters who re-elected him by a 19 percentage-point margin in November," which must mean he's doing something right. Or far-right. Or nigh-totalitarian.

After all that DeSantis-fluffing in the introductory passages, the story ultimately turned to reportage of the changes DeSantis wants to make, nearly all of it framed in terms of Mr. DeSantis's goals — and with no real suggestion that those goals are particularly different from a city council member mad at cost overruns at the local sewage treatment plant. We're told that DeSantis

vowed to turn the page on agendas that he said were “hostile to academic freedom” in Florida’s higher education system. The programs “impose ideological conformity to try to provoke political activism,” Mr. DeSantis said. “That’s not what we believe is appropriate for the state of Florida.”

Gosh, how pugilistic! Is it even the least bit reflected in reality? Who knows? It's what DeSantis says, and the Times is only here to transcribe. Does the Times even wryly note that DeSantis himself is trying to impose "ideological conformity"? Not even drily.

We get a brief overview of how DeSantis seeks to completely remake the New College of Florida, which the Times describes as " a small liberal arts school in Sarasota that has struggled with enrollment, but calls itself a place for 'freethinkers,'" an odd juxtaposition. If you're struggling with enrollment, are you actually very conformist?

THIS MORNING! Ron DeSantis Gets To Work Dismantling 'College'

At least we finally get a brief opposing view in this part of the piece, noting that the new trustees voted "in a raucous meeting" to fire New College President Patricia Okker, and giving her an entire paragraph of her own before shifting the POV immediately to DeSantis again.

While expressing her love for both the college and its students, Dr. Okker called the move a hostile takeover. “I do not believe that students are being indoctrinated here at New College,” she said. “They are taught, they read Marx and they argue with Marx. They take world religions, they do not become Buddhists in February and turn into Christians in March.”

Governor DeSantis also announced on Tuesday that he had asked the Legislature to immediately free up $15 million to recruit new faculty and provide scholarships for New College.

As the story progresses, we finally hear from some of the faculty and students who oppose DeSantis's moves, although even here, the story downplays scathing criticism, framing it almost as if it were an acknowledgement that DeSantis is playin' hardball.

Andrew Gothard, president of New College's faculty union, decries how DeSantis and the state Lege act as if they "have the right to tell Florida students what classes they can take and what degree programs. [...] He says out of one side of his mouth that he believes in freedom and then he passes and proposes legislation and policies that are the exact opposite."

The Times introduces that by saying Gothard "said the governor’s statements on the state’s system of higher education were perhaps his most aggressive yet."

Gothard: DeSantis is a borderline fascist and a two-faced hypocrite when he talks about academic freedom.

The Times:Dr. Gothard finds DeSantis quite the challenging foe!

Thankfully, no such softpedalling happens to a quote from the parent of a transgender student; she's at least allowed to be astonished that DeSantis would try to take away the one place in academia where her daughter and other students have found a refuge.

Then we're back to 30,000 feet with a very "objective" discussion of how Republicans are making political hay out of stirring up anxieties about education — with hardly a hint of how most of it is paranoid bullshit and bigotry — although again, there's at least token acknowledgement that some people disagree.

The piece does at least stop just short of praising DeSantis's brilliance as a field marshal in the Culture Wars, so it's a fine example of balanced coverage. Barf.

We guess the only consolation here is that it was written before the College Board announced its revised framework for its Advanced Placement African American studies course, which has largely removed elements that DeSantis had criticized when he rejected the curriculum. Wow, he really IS building his brand! And even putting his brand on education!


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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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