We’re hearing a lot about indoctrination in the schools these days. “We believe in education, not indoctrination,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said early this year, as he defended his move to ban an Advanced Placement African American studies course. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds talked about “indoctrination” in the schools as she backed a bill that would remove a book from every school district in the state if one district removed it.
It’s all part of a concerted attack on both public education and the very existence of LGBTQ+ people. Or the recognition of Black people’s role in U.S. history. Or anything else that Republicans see as stepping too far away from Republican orthodoxy about who matters. It’s one of those things that’s so obviously fraudulent that it would be funny … if it wasn’t so dangerous. Exposing how ridiculous these charges are—as many teachers took to social media to do this week—is easy. But when Republican lawmakers are writing these attacks into law, it’s still dangerous.
A case in Florida showed what’s really going on here, when a teacher had to defend herself against charges of indoctrination for showing her fifth grade class a Disney movie with a gay character. The movie, Strange World, focuses on environmental and clean energy issues and, as a side plot, has a gay character. That was enough to prompt a complaint that led to a state investigation of the teacher’s decision to show the movie. It’s not a big LGBTQ+ rights movie. The simple existence of a character among many other characters was enough.
Teachers often point out that if they were able to indoctrinate their students, they’d have a really long wish list. And they’ll tell you about it if you ask: Twitter user Melissa Johnson, PhD (@Lady_Historian) got hundreds of replies and quote tweets when she asked, “Teachers and professors: If you actually had the power to indoctrinate students, what would you indoctrinate them to do?”