It is hardly breaking news that many once-trustworthy science and medical publications have been infected by leftist ideology. One of the worst cases involved the Lancet, which published an editorial in May of 2020 that openly urged American voters to replace then-President Trump. Sadly, this disease has continued to metastasize. The latest outbreak just appeared in Scientific American, which published an opinion piece on Friday claiming that the education policies of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “mirror past fascist strategies in ways that are disquieting for American democracy.”
The author is Eden McLean, an associate professor of modern European history at Auburn University. She admits that “fascism” is frequently misapplied but exonerates herself of that sin as follows: “Nonetheless, highlighting the parallels between the ambitions of DeSantis and those of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini exposes the shared threat to democracy.” McLean’s academic work focuses on the period of the last century during which authoritarian regimes rose to power in Italy, Germany, and Spain. All three used public education to reinforce their rule, but McLean uses the Italian model to denounce DeSantis:
At the heart of fascist political strategy was the expansion of state control over public and private life under the facades of popular support and common good. Mussolini may have been legally appointed as Italy’s prime minister in 1922, but by 1927 all political parties had been banned or absorbed into his Fascist Party. At the Ministry of Education, Mussolini appointed nine ministers over 21 years. Only five had teaching experience but, more importantly, all but one (who quit after six months) were devoted party members who did little to question Mussolini’s directives.
What “parallels” does McLean see here? She graciously allows that DeSantis hasn’t banned any political parties, yet detects something sinister in the way he exercises his duty under the state constitution to appoint the members of the Board of Education: “In Florida, as in more than a dozen other states, the governor appoints all members to the Board of Education.” If so many other governors do the same thing, what’s the problem? At length she reveals the secret: “Florida’s current Board of Education includes three lawyers, one doctor, two business executives and just one teacher (who was appointed in March).”
McLean clearly doesn’t know that, until recently, the makeup of the Florida School Board was typical of what she once would have found throughout the country. The idea was that school boards should be representative of the communities they serve. The notion that they should be dominated by “educators” is an artifact of the systematic infiltration of school boards by the teachers unions. What DeSantis has been doing with his appointments is precisely the opposite of fascism. He is returning control of Florida’s schools to parents and students who want education rather than leftist indoctrination. McLean disapproves:
First, it means a small number of people rely on their personal priorities for a child’s education to determine school curricula for all students. The dependence on individual perspectives as much as knowledge grounded in research and expertise leads to an increasing conflation of faith with science, memory with history, and dogmatism with truth. Second, the unwillingness to provide students with subject-appropriate, expert-developed materials that introduce them to new ideas limits their ability to assess sources for reliability and accuracy.
What McLean fails to mention about our expert-heavy education system is its abysmal results. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, indicated that large percentages of American students are functionally illiterate in math and reading. Fully 38 percent of eighth-grade students are below basic achievement levels in math and 30 percent are below basic achievement levels in reading. The NAEP attributes this to COVID-19. As Forbes reports, however, the pandemic merely exacerbated a problem that first beset our education system in 2009.
As to McLean’s charge that DeSantis refuses to provide students with “subject-appropriate, expert-developed materials,” he is simply doing what worried parents have been begging the “experts” to do — expunging leftist dogma, pseudoscience, and revisionist history from the public schools. As he put it in his second inaugural address, “We must ensure school systems are responsive to parents and to students, not partisan interest groups.” This is obviously what the voters of Florida want, as his record-breaking reelection confirmed. For McLean, this overwhelming support for DeSantis constitutes an ominous message.
She solemnly advises her readers, “We must not stop at simply denouncing DeSantis’s efforts as ‘fascist’; to do so sidesteps their homegrown roots and minimizes their full danger.” For McLean, permitting parents to democratically elect a governor who actually listens to them presents enormous peril: “Being part of a democratic republic — embracing our pluralistic society — requires diverse views and their educated assessment.” She assumes that, if Florida’s voters disagree with her, it must be due to bigotry and ignorance. This leaves one remaining question unanswered: What the hell happened to Scientific American?