Did Gov. DeSantis Get the ‘Stop Woke Act’ Wrong?

 

When I saw that the court’s Judge Walker rejected key parts of the “Stop Woke Act”(Individual Freedom Act) in Florida, I assumed that he was just another Leftist judge attacking the Conservative legislation. But then I saw that he was responding to a lawsuit brought by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) on behalf of a faculty member, a student, and a student group. FIRE is a highly regarded organization that champions free speech. You can review their lawsuit here. FIRE stated that the act was unconstitutional in that it disallowed free speech on public college campuses.

Judge Walker’s blistering criticism referred to the work of George Orwell:

‘In this case, the State of Florida lays the cornerstone of its own Ministry of Truth under the guise of the Individual Freedom Act, declaring which viewpoints shall be orthodox and which shall be verboten in its university classrooms,’ Walker wrote.

‘[T]he First Amendment does not permit the State of Florida to muzzle its university professors, impose its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and cast us all into the dark,’ Walker concluded.

The legislation was intended to bring a halt to curricula that ignored or defied traditional teaching of values and subjects, since universities were condemning traditional education and providing Marxist and socialist content to students. The judge, in his objection, said that the state could provide educational curriculum, but explained that there is no precedent for the State of Florida’s assertion that the state “has an unfettered right to prohibit professors from expressing viewpoints with which it disagrees.”

It’s important to note FIRE’s position in this lawsuit:

FIRE’s suit is limited to higher education and does not take a position on the truth of the prohibited concepts of race and sex. Rather, FIRE takes the viewpoint-neutral approach that faculty retain the right to give an opinion—whether that opinion supports or opposes the prohibited concepts in the Stop WOKE Act….

For those of us who believe the university has corrupted education by distorting content and attacking traditional viewpoints, this ruling creates a few dilemmas:

  • How do we return our universities to teaching an appropriate curriculum?
  • How do we limit the propaganda being taught without violating the constitution?
  • Is there a way to ensure that at least a balanced curriculum is offered to students?
  • Was the writing of the “Stop Woke” Act insufficient to meet the state’s agenda?

Is this ruling a message that the universities can’t be stopped in their march to destroy the foundations of the United States?

You can read the “Stop Woke Act” here.

Published in Education
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  1. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    This is always the dilemma of censorship: what is to be deemed prohibited? It is frustrating to be a free speech absolutist after the schools have been made a bought and paid for enterprise of the Left. The Left imposes a de facto censorship by vilifying wrong think, thus the best one can do is for the Legislature (and alumni) to speak with the purse. 

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    This is always the dilemma of censorship: what is to be deemed prohibited? It is frustrating to be a free speech absolutist after the schools have been made a bought and paid for enterprise of the Left. The Left imposes a de facto censorship by vilifying wrong think, thus the best one can do is for the Legislature (and alumni) to speak with the purse.

    Well, they’re going to appeal; this one will be interesting to watch!

    • #2
  3. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    FIRE would, I imagine, be an ally in a move to ban viewpoint discrimination in the hiring and firing of teachers and administrators.  Getting the balance between Democrat and Republican employees on campus would be a big help. But how?

    Banning all consultants and demanding that colleges govern themslves and not submit to commercial enterprises would be good too. But how? You see my dilemma.

    Still, I think FIRE was right. You cannot support freedom with unfreedom.

     

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    GFHandle (View Comment):
    Still, I think FIRE was right. You cannot support freedom with unfreedom.

    I know, I know, GF. Maybe the answer for this post is requiring a balance in curriculum rather than prohibiting certain topics. Your points are well-taken.

    • #4
  5. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    A tough one. Kicking wokeness out of primary education is a different matter, easier to justify and easier to enforce, since the students are children and the state is paying all the bills. Colleges are supposed to be more freewheeling. I agree with the overall aim of the act, but like the rest of us here, I don’t know the best way to achieve those goals. 

    I think some conservatives are shocked that FIRE isn’t always on our side, but the organization’s purpose is freedom, not automatic support for whatever we want. 

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    I think some conservatives are shocked that FIRE isn’t always on our side, but the organization’s purpose is freedom, not automatic support for whatever we want.

    Thanks, Gary. When I saw that FIRE was involved, it stopped me in my tracks. I think I respect them now more than ever, although I’m frustrated by their engagement.

    • #6
  7. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    GFHandle (View Comment):

    FIRE would, I imagine, be an ally in a move to ban viewpoint discrimination in the hiring and firing of teachers and administrators. Getting the balance between Democrat and Republican employees on campus would be a big help. But how?

    Banning all consultants and demanding that colleges govern themslves and not submit to commercial enterprises would be good too. But how? You see my dilemma.

    Still, I think FIRE was right. You cannot support freedom with unfreedom.

     

    This assumes that freedom is the supreme value.  I. Think that such a view is wrong, and so wrong as to be pernicious.

    • #7
  8. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    I suspect that the state will lose here.  I also don’t know how to solve the continued and self-perpetuating indoctrination.   It was OK when it was at least somewhat balanced, but it has gotten ridiculous and all the policies being enacted now, e.g., DIE criteria for faculty hiring will make it worse.  So perhaps DeSantis could focus on breaking the higher education monopoly by requiring high schools to offer vocational training and apprenticeship programs.  He could require high schools to really prep kids for college by requiring all kids who are thinking of going to college to take a financial literacy course forcing them to confront their debt level relative to what their desired major typically pays.   High schools should also offer a course in “deconstructing deconstructionism” so that they can recognize the brain washing they are about to receive when they go to college.

    • #8
  9. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Susan, do you know whether the law applied only to state schools, or to all schools?

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Susan, do you know whether the law applied only to state schools, or to all schools?

    Only to public schools.

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    I suspect that the state will lose here. I also don’t know how to solve the continued and self-perpetuating indoctrination. It was OK when it was at least somewhat balanced, but it has gotten ridiculous and all the policies being enacted now, e.g., DIE criteria for faculty hiring will make it worse. So perhaps DeSantis could focus on breaking the higher education monopoly by requiring high schools to offer vocational training and apprenticeship programs. He could require high schools to really prep kids for college by requiring all kids who are thinking of going to college to take a financial literacy course forcing them to confront their debt level relative to what their desired major typically pays. High schools should also offer a course in “deconstructing deconstructionism” so that they can recognize the brain washing they are about to receive when they go to college.

    Great, creative ideas. The only reservation I have is that the indoctrination has already been given prior to high school. And if freedom of speech is protected in this way, the propaganda will increase. But I appreciate that you are thinking hard about these concerns, GC.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    This assumes that freedom is the supreme value.  I. Think that such a view is wrong, and so wrong as to be pernicious.

    Why do you assume that? I don’t necessarily.

    • #12
  13. D.A. Venters Inactive
    D.A. Venters
    @DAVenters

    Public universities are usually run by a board of trustees, who can hire and and fire the university president. Those trustees are usually appointed by the governor.  A lot of the funding for public universities also often goes through legislative channels.  

    So, there can be pressure from elected officials to make sure there is some viewpoint diversity among administrators and faculty.  That kind of diversity is healthy for a broad education, so it’s a legitimate government interest, a valid reason to consider it when hiring. 

    This is a slow approach, obviously, compared to a new law that bans speech the legislature doesn’t like. And it does require winning elections. But it is also an approach that would be constitutional and in the long run more apt to have a cultural impact in the right direction. 

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    This is a slow approach, obviously, compared to a new law that bans speech the legislature doesn’t like. And it does require winning elections. But it is also an approach that would be constitutional and in the long run more apt to have a cultural impact in the right direction. 

    You are correct, of course. I think many of us have a sense of urgency, since many years have passed since this all began. But we may not be able to rush things, just because we’ve been delinquent in tending to the issue. Thanks, D.A.

    • #14
  15. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    A few broad observations.

    Priorities. Even if the Stop Woke Act constitutes a dangerous weakening of the first amendment (and I do not think it does), aren’t there far greater and pernicious threats? Doesn’t this act at least move in the same direction that the pendulum needs to swing? Why not counteract the more pernicious threats and then go after the Stop Woke Act?

    FIRE is more libertarian than conservative. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Much like my first point, conservatives have much road to travel together with libertarians before we diverge. However, I think that libertarians get some fundamentals wrong. One of those things is that any public institution or effort, assuming it should exist at all, has to be inherently neutral to purpose or viewpoint. I don’t believe that’s correct. Of course such a thing can become an abusive weapon, but it is also the right of communities to organize themselves according to their own ideas of justice, right, good. Therefore this should happen as locally as possible avoiding top down imposition and making change difficult.

    The Stop Woke Act seems to be consistent with the anti-discrimination amendments of the Constitution. It doesn’t punish contrary thoughts/opinions, only prohibits them from being taught in schools. The prohibited content is pretty specific and doesn’t seem expansionary.

    • #15
  16. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    What happens if state funding support goes away?

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Ed G. (View Comment):
    The Stop Woke Act seems to be consistent with the anti-discrimination amendments of the Constitution. It doesn’t punish contrary thoughts/opinions, only prohibits them from being taught in schools. The prohibited content is pretty specific and doesn’t seem expansionary.

    Thoughtful response, Ed. I’d like to comment in return (and I’m not a lawyer or Constitution expert!) I’m not sure how the Act is consistent with the anti-discrimination amendments. Could you give an example? The faculty does believe they could be “punished” since they are basically restricted in what they can teach.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Chuck (View Comment):

    What happens if state funding support goes away?

    I think one state has threatened just that. I’ll see if I can find the information. One problem, Chuck, is that more than the faculty may protest. What about parents who are funding their kids’ education?

    States have threatened to withhold funding for hospitals that fund transgender procedures. I don’t think withholding funds from the public universities has been threatened by a state except FL. And now there is the lawsuit.

    • #18
  19. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Public universities are usually run by a board of trustees, who can hire and and fire the university president. Those trustees are usually appointed by the governor. A lot of the funding for public universities also often goes through legislative channels.

    So, there can be pressure from elected officials to make sure there is some viewpoint diversity among administrators and faculty. That kind of diversity is healthy for a broad education, so it’s a legitimate government interest, a valid reason to consider it when hiring.

    This is a slow approach, obviously, compared to a new law that bans speech the legislature doesn’t like. And it does require winning elections. But it is also an approach that would be constitutional and in the long run more apt to have a cultural impact in the right direction.

    First, higher education institutions are beholden to the dictates of the non-governmental accrediting agencies. These all seem to have been taken over by the Left, and require colleges and universities to demonstrate a heavy measure of “diversity equity inclusion” policies on pain of loss of accreditation. Second, faculties hire faculty, so the more skewed radical the faculty already has become, the less likely they will favor more traditional hires. Applicants routinely must demonstrate how their work advances DEI aims. Pernicious. 

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Fritz (View Comment):
    First, higher education institutions are beholden to the dictates of the non-governmental accrediting agencies. These all seem to have been taken over by the Left, and require colleges and universities to demonstrate a heavy measure of “diversity equity inclusion” policies on pain of loss of accreditation. Second, faculties hire faculty, so the more skewed radical the faculty already has become, the less likely they will favor more traditional hires. Applicants routinely must demonstrate how their work advances DEI aims. Pernicious. 

    It’s pretty discouraging.

    • #20
  21. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    GFHandle (View Comment):
    Still, I think FIRE was right. You cannot support freedom with unfreedom.

    I know, I know, GF. Maybe the answer for this post is requiring a balance in curriculum rather than prohibiting certain topics. Your points are well-taken.

    “Balanced curriculum” just kicks the can down the road. The same argument can be made against every speech related action at every level. Stronger protections, stringently enforced, for alternative viewpoints in the classroom. Eradication of speech codes. Liberate the the public run colleges and universities because the private institutions have a much stronger free speech case. And solve the problem of convincing authentic conservatives to undertake a career in college administration. VDH for President of Stanford.

    • #21
  22. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    What happens if state funding support goes away?

    I think one state has threatened just that. I’ll see if I can find the information. One problem, Chuck, is that more than the faculty may protest. What about parents who are funding their kids’ education?

    Faculty is vastly outnumbered by parents.  I doubt many such parents would endorse Wokeism.  Would Woke schools die? Probably not all of them.

    • #22
  23. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    It seems like hiring a leftish professor and then attempting to manage and restrict what the leftish professor says is a less direct approach than simply not hiring the leftish professor in the first place.

    If you think the leftish professor is going to fill his students’ minds with folly, why hire him?  Why not hire a professor who will actually teach his students?

    • #23
  24. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    GFHandle (View Comment):

    FIRE would, I imagine, be an ally in a move to ban viewpoint discrimination in the hiring and firing of teachers and administrators. Getting the balance between Democrat and Republican employees on campus would be a big help. But how?

    Banning all consultants and demanding that colleges govern themslves and not submit to commercial enterprises would be good too. But how? You see my dilemma.

    Still, I think FIRE was right. You cannot support freedom with unfreedom.

     

    This assumes that freedom is the supreme value. I. Think that such a view is wrong, and so wrong as to be pernicious.

    I think it is the problem that the freedom is selectively applied. If everyone’s freedom of speech were being upheld, this problem would have been avoided and now would eventually work its way out. An absolute freedom of speech would be intolerable, but that is not what we have. We have libel laws and precedents of exceptions a la falsely screaming fire in a crowded theater. When Ann Coulter can once again address an auditorium on the campus of Berkeley, we will have reestablished at least that much of the Constitution and the rule of law.

    • #24
  25. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    So the First Amendment forbids a state from requiring that universities don’t oppose the Declaration of Independence?

    Yeah, not buying that.

    • #25
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Sisyphus (View Comment):
    Liberate the the public run colleges and universities because the private institutions have a much stronger free speech case.

    Love your points, Sisyphus–especially VDH for president of Stanford! But I’m not clear on your point listed here. Could you clarify?

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    If you think the leftish professor is going to fill his students’ minds with folly, why hire him?  Why not hire a professor who will actually teach his students?

    The problem is that the current faculties are selecting professors. We’d have to find a way to deal with that!

    • #27
  28. Steve Fast Coolidge
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    It’s not an issue of freedom of speech. The woke administrators, professors, and teachers should be free to go down to the street corner and hold a sign that says “White people are evil.” But they shouldn’t be paid by the taxpayers to teach hatred of white people (or religious, straight, male, or whatever group of people they hate) in class.

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    It’s not an issue of freedom of speech. The woke administrators, professors, and teachers should be free to go down to the street corner and hold a sign that says “White people are evil.” But they shouldn’t be paid by the taxpayers to teach hatred of white people (or religious, straight, male, or whatever group of people they hate) in class.

    Apparently the judge doesn’t think the state has the power to limit free speech in the classroom, taxpayers or not. 

    • #29
  30. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Susan, do you know whether the law applied only to state schools, or to all schools?

    Only to public schools.

    Doubtful.   

    They usually extend this by saying any school that takes any form of government money or support.  It would be a very special school that does not take some form of government subsidy, even if it is just tax breaks on the land is sits on or the money to support a school lunch program.  

    Leftism is a religion and government is its clergy.  They are not going to allow it not to be taught.  

    • #30
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