Controversy is stirring over picks on Governor-elect Ron DeSantis’s education advisory committee, with critics calling on DeSantis to remove two members accused of being “radical idealogues.”
The two men, Keith Flaugh and Rick Stevens, are managing directors of Collier County’s Florida Citizens’ Alliance, described as a nonprofit, grassroots coalition providing “common sense solutions for K-12 education in Florida.”
Their website states: “Florida children are being indoctrinated in a public school system that undermines their individual rights and destroys our founding principles and family values.”
Meanwhile, a parent group called Collier County School Board Watch has taken to social media to air its concerns about the Florida Citizens’ Alliance and two of the men — Flaugh and Stevens — appointed to DeSantis’s education advisory committee. DeSantis recently named more than 40 people to the team. (The parent group is not affiliated with the Collier County School District, according to the district.)
In a Facebook post, the parent group said: “Whether through Facebook or Twitter, please share our call for Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis to remove two radical ideologues from his education transition team. See our Twitter feed for ALL the surprising revelations about the Florida Citizens’ Alliance. Did DeSantis even vet them?”
Among the parent group’s concerns: Textbooks.
The Florida Citizens’ Alliance posts a “2018 Objectionable Materials Curriculum Report” that identifies such materials in several counties, including Collier. The areas of concern and/or violations of the law, according to the Alliance, include pornography, reconstructed history, political indoctrination, religious indoctrination and science.
For example, a collection of short stories cited in the analysis includes content related to victimization, racism and bigotry.
“These do not teach our children to be good citizens, but victims of an oppressive culture and teach moral values that demonstrate ‘anything goes,'” according to the analysis.
In honors and Advanced Placement classes, the analysis states, stories include issues of marital infidelity and promiscuity, among other descriptions.
One book, used for honors-level work, is deemed in the analysis as “not age-appropriate for any grade level using public taxpayer dollars.”
It’s “Angela’s Ashes,” a memoir written by the late Frank McCourt that won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize. McCourt chronicled a miserable childhood of poverty and near starvation, “yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance and remarkable forgiveness,” according to the Pulitzer Prize Board.
Another book — described in the analysis as usurping the “family’s responsibility to teach family values,” is “The Bluest Eye.”
It’s a novel written by acclaimed author Toni Morrison, who’s won a Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The book, containing topics of racism, incest and other controversial themes, has been on a list of “most challenged” books by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which condemns censorship and tracks attempts to ban books in schools and libraries, according to its website.
In the social studies category, the Alliance’s analysis describes a U.S. history book that “glorifies collectivism, the elimination of private property and the elimination of God-given rights.”
And a 6th grade-level world history book includes several dozen pages on Islam that at best presents an unbalanced view, according to the analysis, stating “It has no place in our schools where Judeo-Christian beliefs have been the foundation of America.”
A “flawed” environmental science book in the analysis has “extensive errors” and includes “major chapters that teach man-made global warming and evolution as proven science.”
Flaugh, of Florida Citizens’ Alliance, said he was not aware of the parent group that is calling for his ouster from the DeSantis transition committee. But he said that his organization has been criticized before, adding “Progressives are very upset that we’re defending our Constitutional rights.”
Flaugh also told the Phoenix that he and his colleague Stevens are “excited to be on the transition team.”
The Alliance does post other material on its website, including graduation rates and Florida’s average score on the ACT college entrance exam compared to other states. Florida’s average is below the national average.
At the education advisory committee meeting last week, members praised Florida public schools and talked about marketing and advertising education success stories.
But Flaugh spoke out about the performance of high school students, based on ACT college entrance exams scores, saying, “We are well below the national average and we have not been improving.”
Whether DeSantis would remove the two men from the Florida Citizens’ Alliance is not clear.
But on the campaign trail, DeSantis’s education platform included the phrase “founding principles” — similar to the Alliance’s words — related to a section on “American Constitutional principles in civics classes.”
That aim was: “To equip Florida students to be well-rounded citizens, Ron DeSantis will work with the Legislature to develop and pass policies that ensure a renewed emphasis on teaching America’s founding principles and ensure that the Constitution is put back into the classroom.”