Ignorant and Free

Yes, I know this is one of my favorite Thomas Jefferson quotes: For a nation to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be. Enter Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Yale and Harvard educated attorney and US Navy veteran, which would lead one to assumed was educated. However, DeSantis jumped on the elite bandwagon of extremists proclaiming public schools were evil. Of course, this belief snowballed and once again, and the age of ignorance banned books. While some will argue that Huckleberry Finn, Atticus Finch, and Lenny have no business in schools, school districts in Florida are in a uproar over the Rotary International Dictionary project. In the early 1990’s Rotary Clubs across the world began donating paperback dictionaries to every third grade student. In my school district over 500 children each received his/her/ their own dictionary each year–sometimes the first book they ever owned. Now hundreds of dictionaries are stockpiled in storage, due to the passage of HB 1467, which requires books be “approved for suitability” by state-approved, media specialists. This includes all texts, library collections, book fairs, and of course, free dictionaries. DeSantis believes this law helps prevent indoctrination throughout the school system. (Or guarantees a nation of really bad spellers whose word choice is nonsensical.)

Indoctrination? I opened my dictionary and looked up its meaning. Depending on the dictionary, the definitions vary:

Cambridge: The process of repeating an idea or belief to someone until they accept it.

Merriam Webster: To instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments or to imbue with usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle

Oxford: The process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.

For over ten years, I taught a university, graduate course: The History of American Education. US schools were founded on the principle of making “good” Americans. Even Daniel Webster published an American dictionary with American spelling. In England, it’s honour, in America, it’s honor; theatre morphed into theater, etc. School children were taught to be educated citizens with rights and responsibilities; they recited the Preamble to the Constitution, pledged the American flag, cut out silhouettes of Washington and Lincoln,and sang, The Star Spangled Banner. Children, as young as five, were stolen from the reservations and placed in boarding schools to turn these “savages” into Americans.

Yet, based on the definition of indoctrination, which I hope you read carefully, it could easily be applied to politics. I find the Cambridge definition to particularly ring true. I trust you can figure it out yourself. Oh, to my Arizona friends, a similar version of HB 1467, takes effect in Arizona, January 1, 2023.

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