The spate of anti-civil rights, anti-civil liberties, bigoted, hateful bills recently implemented throughout conservative municipalities to attack education are predicated, like all GOP policies, on misinformation and disinformation.
When Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed the truly abhorrent “Parental Rights in Education” bill—more accurately known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill—he set a dangerous precedent, effectively banning educators from talking about gender identity and sexual orientation throughout the state.
The misinformation and disinformation inherent in the messaging for this bill by conservatives is the implication that little children are being taught all about sexual education by elementary school teachers. If we are to believe the Grand Ol’ Party—the same political party that refuses to move a centimeter on creating gun safety laws because it would be a slippery-slope of civil liberties violations by big government—laws must be created to stop teachers from telling your five-year-olds all about the joys of homosexual sex and the fun of being a transgender child who isn’t allowed to play with other kids in sports because little Abigail might not get a trophy.*
The problem is obvious: None of this is happening. This isn’t what teachers teach in elementary school, grades K through 3. There is no “sex education” in those grades and, in fact, there never has been. In double fact, no one has ever even asked for that to be something teachers teach in school. Recognizing that some people have two moms, or that a historical figure was gay, or that gay people exist is just a normal human response to gay people existing. With regard to gender identity, the idea that children can recognize that someone isn’t the sum of their reproductive organs is also just essential human education.
*Oh yeah, this is the same crowd that reviles “participation trophies,” as well.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave her daily press briefing. The questions she received from the reporters on hand ranged in topic from Ukraine and further sanctions on Russia to the confirmation process of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.
But inside of that press room is a tall drink of dumb: Fox News’ Steve Doocy’s son, Peter Doocy. Doocy has made a career so far as the guy willing to simply regurgitate the day’s conservative talking point as both his question and the lede of his report. It’s sort of like watching the tallest, least impressive elementary school kid take a journalism class.
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While Doocy is not alone in asking misleading and vapid questions in the White Hosue press room, Peter’s rudimentary skills as a GOP talking point blurt factory has made him something of a fish in a barrel for Psaki. Her ability to think on her feet like an adult puts her at an adult-sized advantage intellectually over Mr. Doocy, which has led to many a slam-dunk exchange between the two. Monday was no different.
First, Doocy asked, “At what age does the White House think that students should be taught about sexual orientation and gender?” What Doocy is attempting to do is make it sound as if the White House wants little children to learn how a penis goes into a vagina, or how individuals of various gender identities and sexual preferences perform sexual acts. This isn’t a thing in elementary school. It’s really not even a thing in dedicated sex education classes at the high school level. It also obfuscates what the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and others like it (see CRT book banning) are actually designed to do and how damaging they really are.
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Psaki explains that the White House has made it clear that they don’t think legislation like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill are anything more than “a reflection of” the “politicians in Florida propagating misinformed, hateful policies that do nothing to address the real issues.” Pretty simple and one-hundred percent correct. She goes on to say that the Biden administration will be looking at whether or not this bill infringes on the federal civil rights laws of our country and will act accordingly.
It’s important to note here that this law is very clearly not a solution to anything. The vagueness of the law is proof that what conservative politicians are maneuvering for is a useful dog whistle—a hateful talking point that attacks teachers (and their labor unions) while marginalizing the already-marginalized, and offering up nothing more than bigotry.
Already, many are fighting back, pointing out that denying a teacher’s ability to talk about “gender identity” or “sexual orientation” and to ban books with reference to any of those umbrella topics actually includes heterosexual couples, “moms” and “dads,” and the mythic nuclear family that GOP operatives are ostensibly defending from the onslaught of … a made-up LBGTQ+ boogieperson militia.
It recalls a well-known meme: “’I never thought leopards would eat MY face,' sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People's Faces Party.” That’s exactly what advocates for education, children, and the LGBTQ+ community have recently been able to turn against fascist groups like Moms for Liberty. The schadenfreude of it all would feel better if there weren’t children and families being harmed by craven bigoted politicians.
RELATED STORY: Republican governor signs cruel 'Don't Say Gay' bill into law and sets a dangerous precedent
But never fear, Peter Doocy has a solid follow-up question: If the White House supports the “kinda instruction” he himself clearly cannot articulate, in grades K through 3, does the White House support penis and vagina talk to even younger children????
At this point, Psaki is fed up with this dance of ignorance, and she cuts right to the chase: “Do you have examples of schools in Florida that are teaching kindergartners about sex education?” she asks. In response, Doocy sort of mumbles, “I’m just asking for the President’s opin—“
Psaki was having none of that. “Because I think that's a relevant question. Because I think this is a politically charged, harsh law that is putting parents and LGBTQ+ kids in a difficult, heartbreaking circumstance. I actually think that's a relevant question,” she fired back.
And knowing that Peter Doocy and his ilk will never answer that question because they have no evidence of any of the ghosts they frighten their gold-selling, pillow-buying audience with, she moves on to the next reporter.