Ron DeSantis’ anti-science agenda is dangerous
Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is running for president of the United States with a record of anti-diversity, pro-censorship and white nationalist crackdowns. He has focused on education, LGBTQ rights and access to health care, and if he prevails, his anti-science candidacy could harm millions of Americans.
DeSantis banned books from school libraries, restricted classroom discussions by teachers about diversity, banned high school classes that focus on history and black people, politicized college curricula, limited spending on diversity programs , ignored the reduction of greenhouse gases in climate change policy, decreased reproductive rights. and banned transgender healthcare.
The governor has rejected all evidence that masks are safe and helps prevent COVID, appointed a surgeon general who advised against vaccinations, and continues to paint science and evidence as restrictions on Floridians’ freedom. Instead of limiting the role of the government, as he claimed in his fight against masks, he is expanding it to selectively promote a particular religious agenda.
The maternal mortality rate in Florida is rising, but DeSantis signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, outlawing it after six weeks of pregnancy and endangering people who have life-threatening complications that termination could help. Black women in Florida have the worst maternal mortality rates of any group in the state, and research has shown that people denied abortions and forced to give birth suffer mentally, financially, and educationally. These statistics will surely not improve with these new laws, which are pushing health care providers to move out of state.
By making gender-affirming caregiving for youth illegal and disparaging the use of preferred pronouns and names, the Governor and his supporters will no doubt increase the suffering of transgender people. Multiple studies have looked at the mental health of transgender adolescents. Researchers have found that giving puberty blockers to young people who question the gender they were assigned at birth reduces depression, anxiety and anger. In another study, 56 percent of transgender youth surveyed had attempted suicide, and the causes included feeling like they didn’t belong, being left out, and a profound lack of self-esteem.
Despite Florida’s vulnerability to climate change, whether from a natural disaster or rising sea levels, DeSantis has once again ignored scientific evidence and refuses to address the role of greenhouse gas emissions in global warming. Instead, she has focused on adaptation or resilience measures. He also rejected sustainable investment efforts, such as bonds that would finance renewable energy measures in the state. But adaptation and mitigation go hand in hand. Without reducing the cause of climate change, adaptation will only go so far, and under DeSantis, Florida remains at high risk of a weather-related disaster.
DeSantis has signed bills that allow people to challenge school library books they deem unsuitable for children. To date, books pulled from library shelves include a biography of baseball player Roberto Clemente (later restored), poetry by Amanda Gorman, poems by Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale and books on Black, Cuban, and LGBTQ perspectives.
The authors of several books that have been pulled from Florida shelves have sued the state for violating both their First Amendment rights to free speech and their Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection under the law. The teachers union and other groups are suing, arguing that the law extends beyond schools to public libraries.
His “Don’t Say Gay” law prevents teachers from discussing homosexuality or being transgender in high school. Such rules impede comprehensive sex education and invalidate LGBTQ students, adding to the mental health burden of a state that has a severe shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists.
DeSantis and the far right misrepresent critical race theory (which examines the role of race in the legal system) and lobbied the College Board to remove references to the theory from the Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum. The governor’s actions are part of a large-scale disinformation campaign to stoke fear among whites and defend white nationalism. However, racism is a reality, and in our multicultural, multilingual global society, promoting white nationalism will create a generation of students who cannot reason and think as critically as their peers.
The governor also banned efforts by Florida universities to promote diversity, inclusion and equity. The bans could affect all aspects of education, including efforts to recruit non-white STEM students and scientists for higher education. He has packed the board of trustees of the historically apolitical New College of Florida with conservative ideologues to create an institute of higher learning that espouses his version of American education and white exceptionalism, drawing explicitly from evangelical Christian colleges. conservatives.
What Ron DeSantis has done in Florida mirrors efforts in other states, including Texas. He is part of a new class of conservative legislators who talk about freedom while restricting freedom. This political maneuver is part of building his national presence, but it does not represent the views of the majority of Americans. Florida’s population is growing faster than most other places in the US, but the state is now on the verge of fewer critical thinkers, fewer people of color as educators and subjects of education, more deaths in the childbirth and dozens of people in the throes of the crisis because of their identities. A country led by someone who exercises such cruelty, fanaticism and megalomania will never be “a more perfect Union”.