Don’t Let Divisiveness Divide Us

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By Jill Chapin

About the only thing that Florida governor Ron de Santis and I have in common is that we are both homo sapiens.  After that, I struggle to find common ground with him.  The hundreds of books banned in several Florida counties smack of the narrow mindedness of centuries ago.  His efforts to change Florida election laws seem counter-productive to having as many lawfully registered people vote as possible.

But here is where he actually makes sense to me and I imagine it would to many Americans if the inflammatory Don’t Say Gay bill mantra was replaced with the less volatile and more accurate name of the bill, titled Parental Rights in Education.  It states that lessons about sexual orientation are banned outright in K-2.  It also prohibits lessons in other grades unless they are age and developmentally appropriate.  I’m sure that baby boomers will recall that sex education was devoted to one spring afternoon in the sixth grade, and the boys and girls were not taught it together.

But the democrats have needlessly inflamed the public by calling it the Don’t Say Gay bill.  Living 3,000 miles from Florida, I actually believed that there would be consequences if a teacher said the word gay.  This belief was further reinforced when President Biden wrongly pointed out that this conflict is because . . . “you think we should not be able to say “gay.”

As a parent and a grandparent who leans liberal, I would not want my children to be given lesson time in school devoted to gender identification – for two reasons.

First, children should be allowed at least five minutes of innocence – to play tag, swing or talk about their newest toy.  Only a few children may be troubled by conflicting feelings about their sexuality and if it comes to the attention of their teachers, they can pass these concerns onto the parents, and vice versa.

Second, until our kids have mastered the subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic, do you want classroom instruction replaced with time spent on sexual orientation when most children have never questioned their identity?

Because we are encouraged to live the Us Against Them way of life, we don’t seem willing to see that not only are some things deliberately given an inflammatory name, but if we would take the time to see what the so-called divisiveness is all about, we might actually find common ground.  Believe me, it was unsettling for me to realize that de Santis has a valid point, but nevertheless, it is one that is undoubtedly shared by parents of all political beliefs.

Think of all that we all have in common:  

  • The desire for an excellent elementary school education in the basics where instruction time is not siphoned away from this goal.
  • The desire to give our children a little longer to just be children by not needlessly questioning their sexuality at so young an age if they have never even thought about it.
  • The desire to direct those who do show anxiety about their sexuality to be heard by their parents and counselors, and given the opportunity to feel safe in talking about it – outside of the classroom.

I admit I didn’t deliberately set out to learn more about this Parental Rights in Education, but I like to think that if I should stumble across something that questions my prior beliefs, I can incorporate it or replace it with what I thought I knew.

Maybe this quote from short story writer Philip K. Dick propelled me to be willing to open my mind a bit more, not only with this issue but with all of the social and political discourse that surrounds us.

He said, “Reality is that, which, if you stop believing it, does not go away”.