The Turning Point USA Student Action Summit was held at the convention center in the state of Florida. Joe Raedle took this picture.
After 10 years of teaching at a Florida university, I will return to my college class in a couple of weeks. I won't be adjusting my syllabus to remove readings or discussions that make students uncomfortable despite the recently passed Stop WOKE Act. I don't want to whitewash our country's history or minimize the challenges and oppression that so many still experience.
I will continue to do what I have been doing. Students will be required to read and discuss the work of writers who belong to all sorts of communities, and I will pick the work of writers who belong to all sorts of communities. Many of us may be uncomfortable no matter how we identify or what community we are in.
My students aren't the kind of people Gov. DeSantis thinks they are. The problem with stereotypes is not that they are false, but that they are incomplete according to the author. The one story becomes the only story. I hope that those of us who are able to attend college will be able to expand our view of the world. One of the ways I teach my students how to tell their own stories is by studying what other people have done.
Many of my students have not yet heard the voices of the marginalized communities that they belong to. My students read Kiese Laymon's "Heavy: An American Memoir" and poems by Danez Smith. Race, class, whiteness, sexuality, politics, family and body image are addressed by both of these authors. Other topics that are uncomfortable are homophobia and police brutality.
The Stop WOKE nickname was created to protect the white, straight student who is theoretically being made to feelguilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress. My white, straight students don't respond in a way that is frightening to anyone.
One student wrote, "I feel like this was such a good insight into a world I don't know anything about." One commented, "Hearing stories through own-voices memoirs is a great way to open the eyes of so many people who don't understand what it's like to be black in America." They haven't been deceived by me. They have been enlightened by another person's story.
My students in marginalized communities are more worried about my reading lists and class discussions. One of my students said that he had lived the book and had heard other stories from his mother. I was reminded of the pain of the real world instead of being informed. People in marginalized communities are often silent when white people express shock. It is necessary but it is also uncomfortable.
If we have any chance of unifying our country, we need to model how to discuss controversial topics in a reasonable manner. Corporations, lobbyists, media groups, and politicians are the only people who benefit from our disagreements. It stands to reason, then, that instead of promoting an educational system that seeks to include the experiences of all, it seeks to silence experiences that do not fit an image of America that never actually existed. It is just another move in a culture war that no one wins.
I don't want to accuse anyone. I don't want to write this essay and I also don't want to use a pseudonym. I have published many things that have required courage, but I have never considered doing so before. I believe in being transparent and authentic. I am concerned about our governor's willingness to punish those who even consider opposing him. I can deal with the backlash. These words may be grounds for my firing. This law is worth fighting for.
I am concerned about the scrutiny it will bring to my university or the humanities in general. He doesn't care if students are killed in politics. Students will be affected by budget cuts.
I can't be quiet. The history of the United States is linked with genocide, slavery, white supremacy and sexism, to name a few of our country's ills. I can't be objective in saying that history doesn't bother us anymore and that groups of people are not treated unfairly because of past systems.
This is false and the governor knows it. He majors in history at Yale. He isn't acting out of a lack of knowledge. He is acting to get attention. He is ignoring marginalized communities and trying to sentence them to a future that is not safe. He takes an oath to serve all of the citizens in this state.
He underestimates Florida's young people. If we stopped assigning and discussing material that encourages students to recognize privilege and if we stopped claiming to be objective about racism and other forms of oppression. Some of the most diverse campuses in the US are where they live, work, study and learn. Almost half of our universities' undergrad populations are made up of ethnic minorities.
When those students enter my class? I won't pretend to be "objective" about oppression and privilege for those who don't know about it. They are definitely not. We have a responsibility to understand who benefits from the system and how we contribute to it. Before we can all commit to working for change, we need to face it.
For the student who trusted us with her story. I won't tell her that her experiences aren't valid or that she's trying to sell her on an image of America that hasn't existed She wouldn't believe that oppression is just a theory. She's living it.
This isn't a course of action. Education is the thing.
I'll do my job if I'm allowed in a classroom.
I'd like to see Gov. DeSantis do the same.
Beth L. Matterson is a writer in Florida. Matterson writes fiction. She would much prefer hanging out with her dog than writing an essay, but she notes that America where so many are silenced, and we become more concerned with one's comfort than one's learning, is where she loses sleep.
Do you have a story you want to tell? Send us a pitch if you know what we want here.
The article was first published on HuffPost.