Those Crazy Fundamentalists in Tallahassee

There’s so much to dissect in Daniel Shoer Roth’s latest mind-boggling column that I will break it up into parts instead of roll out the whole thing. The title: Gov. Scott Pushing Florida Toward Fundamentalism, should give you a quick hint at what’s to come:

Florida is on its way to fundamentalism. Gov. Rick Scott and some of our ultraconservative legislators are determined to get there despite the human cost.

On the one hand, they aspire to minimize the government’s involvement in people’s life in crucial areas like public education and social services for those in need. On the other hand, they support the government’s meddling in Florida residents’ personal decisions.

OK…a little translation is in order before we dig deeper into the column. Crucial areas = things ultra-liberals like Roth think are so important that the ever-powerful and all-knowing government ought to have near-absolute control over. Government meddling in Florida residents’ personal decisions = things ultra-liberals like Roth think are not important enough for government to protect and preserve (i.e. the life of an innocent human fetus).

Tallahassee is a mess. Last week the governor signed a package of radical bills, which tie teacher contracts and pay in large part to the performance of students on standardized tests like the FCAT. The new law also phases out so-called teacher tenure, a protection teachers have against quick firing. It seems that conservatives’ goal is to see Florida’s teachers fleeing the state.

It’s a terrible way to penalize teachers in poor neighborhoods — those teachers tend to be the most dedicated — and their disadvantaged students. It’s ludicrous to equal the performance of a child who had a good breakfast amid loving parents to that of a child who could not sleep all night on an empty stomach listening to quarrelling parents.

No, tenure ensures that bad teachers leave. And every other job performance metric out there is tied to results, except apparent in the public school teaching arena. It is fair to argue the method of performance evaluation (the only point I’ll give Roth some credit for making), but he seems to want to protect the sensibilities of bad teachers at the expense of students and parents.

There are also some 20 bills in Tallahassee that would put an array of new obstacles in the paths of women seeking abortions, which would take us back decades in social development.

And take us back decades to a time when the life of a human fetus had more value than a heart-breaking decision to terminate it for sake of selfish convenience.

Women who wish to terminate their pregnancy — even at an early stage — would be forced to subject themselves to a medically unnecessary ultrasound test. Another bill would ban abortion altogether, challenging the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling and, inevitably, paving the way for a dangerous illegal abortion market.

Abortion is a sensitive issue that prompts passionate arguments from two sides: one defends the right to life of a fetus and considers abortion in virtually all instances a crime, and another believes a woman should have authority over her body.

Yet not all is black and white. There are specific areas of gray: victims of rape or incest; pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother; fetuses with congenital defects.

It IS black and white, Mr. Roth. Fifth commandment. And the only authority over our bodies and lives (and those of others) is our Creator who made us in his image as living creatures.

Many of these bills fail to include even exceptions for such cases. Nor do they include measures to reduce the abortion rate, which would be the only solution after heavy-handed policies have failed.

New legislation should focus on giving better access to information and birth-control methods; strengthening crime prevention and thus reducing the number of rapes; offering more medical services to mothers and children; and improving and emphasizing sexual education programs.

Better access to information, apparently, only means access to information detrimental to life. When it involves ultrasounds that are intended to show the living, dependent creature inside the womb of a mother considering abortion, it’s not considered better information, it’s considered “meddling”.

Gov. Scott has nonetheless proposed cutting 10 percent in public education funding — $1.7 billion — a threat to subjects like physical education and health, which include the sexual education curriculum.

Wouldn’t it be more effective to teach these subjects in order to reduce unwanted pregnancies, either by abstinence or contraceptive plans, instead of banning abortions after the teens are pregnant?

But who can understand Scott and his Tea Party supporters?

They propose to cut funds for drug rehabilitation programs, which help keep thousands of people out of jail, reduce crime, and save millions of dollars of taxpayer money, while they want to force public employees to take a drug test every 45 days, a measure that would cost taxpayers a fortune.

Another fundamentalist insanity comes from two bills the purpose of which is to protect Florida courts from a supposed infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines such as the Islamic Sharia law, a code of behavior that in some Arab countries discriminates against women. But no court in America has ever used Sharia to rule in a case. This is simply a manifestation of Islamophobia that does not contribute to creating jobs or balancing the budget.

Indeed, the only “Sharia laws” that would affect Floridians are those that Scott and his ultraconservative legislators wish to impose on us.

Oh, boy.

Up to now, Daniel Shoer Roth’s columns have been sensible enough to overcome and overlook his far-left tendencies. With this column, and in particular his parting shot that amounts to little more than a temper tantrum directed at Rick Scott and “his Tea Party loons”, he really “se la comió” (Cuban slang for “he really went over the edge”).

My parting shot: if fundamentalism means protecting innocent human life and ensuring that Sharia law doesn’t rear its ugly, bigoted head in Florida and the rest of the country, then we need more of it. Pronto.

7 Responses

  1. Believe it or not, I’m with you on most all of this, Robert, as I’m against abortion and don’t hold a real strong opinion either way on teacher tenure.

    But it speaks volumes to where you stand on the political spectrum to classify someone who wants to keep public education and social services under the purview of the government as “ultra-liberal.” Perhaps that’s just indicative of how right the hard right extremists have moved.

    We also differ in one other area when it comes to being pro-life, in that I’m pro-life for all human life where you limit yourself to that life in the womb. Don’t bother giving me all the Bible passages that justify it…it’s hypocritical and it’s an inconsistency that reveals too much about how many of us tend to apply and interpret God’s will only when it’s convenient and politically apropos to do so.

    The word “compassion” also comes to mind in this discussion…but that’s a whole other comment, I suppose.

    .

    • Even though you mostly agree with me, you still have to find a way to stick the knife in, don’t you, Rick? Talk about compassion…practice what you preach, brother. That’s in the Bible too, but I guess you’re too progressive and intelligent to care.

      BTW, we’ve had a similar discussion on ALL aspects of life in a past post, one in which I made my point clear about how we must be careful when considering the death penalty, while acknowledging the common sense (again, it’s in the Bible, in case you’re enlightened enough to check it out) that an innocent life is not the same as someone who has committed heinous crimes and is a grave threat to society.

  2. But let’s be honest, the right doesn’t really care about human life. If they did, they would vigorously support life, after said life was born (I don’t see too many right-wingers in favor of child-welfare programs). The right is anti-life but pro-control.

    What I don’t get is why you don’t see this.

    • -g,

      You sound so certain about the feelings of those nasty right-wingers that it’s hardly worth contesting.

      And, yes, perhaps I am blind to what you lay out as being so obvious.

      However, comments like yours and your subsequent one below, as well as the others, indicate that I’m hardly alone in the “don’t know squat” department!

  3. And no, every other job metric is not tied to performance. Police still get paid if crime continues, the Governor still gets paid if the unemployment rate stagnates, etc.

    But that isn’t even the point. The FCAT is designed to test student ability. It was never designed to test teacher effectiveness. This is basic assessment theory, is your test reliable and valid…is it testing what you want it to test? You wouldn’t fire your doctor because your prostate exam didn’t find you throat cancer, would you?

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