A video from conservative educational organization PragerU, approved for use in Florida schools, might help explain why educators are fleeing the state.
PragerU creates video content to counteract what it perceives as a left-wing bias in schools. Florida teachers can show the 5-10 minute videos to kids, or set them to watch it as homework, in addition to their regular curriculum.
Conservative talk show hosts Dennis Prager and Allen Estrin launched PragerU in 2009. Until now, it’s rather flown under the radar. However, on July 20th, PragerU announced the approval of its materials in Florida schools. Many are now familiarizing themself with the videos for the first time.
Typical titles include ““How To Be a Rational Patriot” and “How to take care of an American Flag”. Other videos include “How to embrace femininity” and “How to embrace masculinity”.
Below is an excerpt from the one on femininity.
One of the narrators defends gender stereotypes, saying, “They exist because they reflect the way men and women are naturally different. And those differences aren’t bad.”
And people who criticize gender stereotypes?
“Those people are just trying too hard to be cool,” she adds.
She also recommends wearing pink, mastering the art of makeup, and spritzing yourself with a “torpedo of fragrance”, if that’s what you want to do.
“Embrace the idea of being a wife or mother,” she continues.
Below is the video on “How to embrace your masculinity.”
Among other things, this one encourages men to be “financially independent”. Financial independence, is, of course, a great thing… but it’s telling that it’s only included in the masculinity video and not the femininity one.
Commenting on the approval of PragerU material, a state government spokesperson said, “The Florida Department of Education reviewed PragerU Kids and determined the material aligns with Florida’s revised civics and government standards. PragerU Kids is no different than many other resources, which can be used as supplemental materials in Florida schools at district discretion.”
They said the material was to be used on a discretionary basis and was not obligatory.
Florida brain drain
The state’s approval for schools using the material is unlikely to stop a brain drain in educators from the state.
Last year, Florida passed its controversial “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. Formally known as the Parental Rights In Education Act, it bars the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in schools. It was first introduced for younger kids. However, in May of this year, it was expanded to all grade levels.
In March, it emerged that a Florida principal had been forced to quit after an art history lesson. She had shown students a photo of Michelangelo’s statue of David. Two parents had complained, saying it was pornographic.
It’s a year and a half since Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis signed “Don’t Say Gay” into law, and predictable after-effects are here.
This week, schools in Hillsborough County in Florida announced they were cutting the amount of Shakespeare students will study. Citing the “Don’t Say Gay” law, the school board said instead of reading the whole of Romeo & Juliet or Macbeth, students will study excerpts that don’t contain sexual content.
In Orange Country, the school board sent out a memo on Monday. It stated trans employees and contractors can’t use the pronouns or bathrooms that match their gender identity. It cited Florida’s anti-trans legislation HB 1069 and 1521 for its reasoning.
High faculty vacancy rates at Florida colleges
Given the draconian restrictions on education implemented in Florida, some institutions are reporting a high number of staff vacancies weeks before the start of the new school year. The provost of one institution, New College of Florida, told the Guardian in July that it had a “ridiculously high” number of vacancies for the upcoming year. Over a third of its teaching positions remained vacant: much more than a typical year.
Liz Leininger, an associate professor of neurobiology, resigned from the college earlier this year and is now working in Maryland.
“All of the legislation surrounding higher education in Florida is chilling and terrifying,” she told the Guardian.
Andrew Gothard is President of the United Faculty of Florida labor union. He told the outlet he estimates a loss of between 20 and 30% of faculty members at some universities during the upcoming academic year. Usually, the figure is closer to 10%, but it’ll keep increasing with these restrictions steady in place.