A specter is haunting Virginia: it is Florida, under the dubious leadership of Ron ‘Meatball’ DeSantis. It may be hard to believe, but here is the latest evidence.
In Fairfax County, home to one of the best public-school systems in the nation, there is a new policy requiring teachers to compile a list of books that they plan to use for instruction containing any sort of naughty bits, really any references to sex. The teachers call it the Sexy Books thing.
It comes on the heels of a new law signed by Governor Glenn Youngkin, enthusiast of investment in the Peoples Republic of China. As promulgated by the Fairfax County School Board, it is implemented in their Policy 3290. The gory details are here.
Parents are notified of books on the sexy list to be used for instruction of their children. They are given three months to indicate whether or not their student should be excluded from access to the book and given an alternative. Paperwork passes back and forth. Talk about excessive bureaucracy. As if public school teachers don’t already have enough work to do.
It turns out that Othello, among other classics, can get on that list. Sorry, William Shakespeare. This sort of idiocy is just the thing that Virginia high school students will need to make themselves less likely to be admitted to selective universities. Of course, somebody can always object that listing Othello is overreaching, but that’s how regulations work. Ordinary employees’ incentive is to minimize risk, just as a lawyer will always advise you not to do anything that has the slightest chance of biting you in the ass subsequently.
I have to think Wuthering Heights is in deep doo-doo.
More broadly, I’ve said (before a lot of other people, by the way) that the bogus Critical Race Theory scandal was aimed at any sort of ‘DEI’ practices in schools. DEI stands for diversity-equity-inclusion. Dangerous notions, amirite? I would go further now, to say that the anti-DEI campaign is really aimed at the humanities, across the board: history, sociology, literature, social studies. It has an ideological angle and a pecuniary angle.
The ideological angle is following the example in Florida, which itself is following developments in places like Hungary and Turkey, where formerly neutral educational systems are being turned upside-down for the sake of slavish obedience to the authoritarian regimes in power.
The money trail leads to Christian private schools, charter school sponsors, and home-schoolers. All are angling to drain funds from the public school system. Our own gun-toting lieutenant-governor, the misnamed Winsome Sears, has proposed legislation exactly along these lines.
I would like you to think of K-12 grades and public colleges as a single system, both under attack from the neo-Confederate bulk of the Republican Party. (It is increasingly the case that high schools offer courses that provide college credits, further tightening the link I am emphasizing.) Underlying the attack is vicious racism, homophobia, and xenophobia. My argument is that Jews, Muslims, Asians, people of color, every sort of LGBTQI person, and immigrants are all under the same bullseye.
Anyone of Jewish ancestry can recognize the warning signs. The campaign of bigotry needs to be strangled in its crib. Once it becomes obvious to everyone, it’s too late. It is why I decided to shake myself loose from retirement and make this the theme of my campaign for the Virginia House of Delegates. (As always, donations gratefully accepted.)