Book Banning Becomes Part of Florida Statute
The relationship between public schools and Florida’s state government has been rocky at best for years. A series of laws passed in the last two sessions will further exacerbate an apparent desire by the Legislature to expose education leaders to as much vitriol as possible.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed into law a bill that would expose every textbook, library book and instructional material to objections from extremists anywhere in the country.
Every elementary school in the state must now make publicly available a list of all such materials in a searchable form on school websites, and media specialists must go through a public approval process before adding new selections. When districts receive objections, those will go on a list for review annually by Florida’s Commissioner of Education, and the state will maintain a list of removed or discontinued items.
LGBTQ children really came into the crosshairs of legislators this year in a Session dominated by culture wars but where insurance reform and building inspection regulations couldn’t make it across the finish line.
While there’s been enormous attention paid to the ‘don’t say gay’ bill, it seems likely the most controversial parts of that particular piece of legislation will end up thrown out of court or prove utterly unenforceable anyway. To hear supporters talk about it, one wonders if the intention is for it to do anything at all considering Florida’s existing education standards already relegate curriculum instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity to older grade levels.
But in many ways, this instruction materials bill seems far more nefarious. Coupled with a 12-year term limit on school board members, this bill seems destined to lead to more books being banned from schools.
When Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, presented a Senate version of the bill earlier this year, one supporter showed up with a children’s book encouraging the acceptance of peers who may be transgender. “It Feels Good To Be Yourself” was written by Theresa Thorn, the mother of a transgender girl, and the book largely explains the topic of gender identity in terms children would understand. There’s no sex. Yet a speaker from the group Best SOS America lumped it in with pornography and said it would create gender confusion among children.
Like many bills this year, this legislation was sold as an empowerment of parents. The irony that a book written by a mother who wanted a safer, more accepting world for her child should not be lost on anyone.
The level of cruelty and bigotry on display in some of the hearings this year was hard to stomach. But even putting aside from this intolerance shown to children, it’s stunning that a year after stopping cancel culture served as a rallying cry to lawmakers, empowering censorship became the theme of this year’s session.
When this has been called a book banning bill in the past, it’s been greeted by pushback, just as supporters of “don’t say gay” dismiss that branding as inaccurate. The instructional materials bill may not explicitly itemize a list of contraband book titles, but it sets up a process for such a list will be constructed.
All we can do now is hope there are enough proponents of free speech and expression, advocates for diversity and believers in the power of education to object to the objections when extremists try to take important material off the library shelves.
Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA.
Turning Your Passion into Your Profession: Film, Photography and Imaging
Creating and capturing images has come a long way since Nicéphore Niépce’s View from the Window at Le Gras in 1826. As we continue to take a deeper look at the majors of Ringling College of Art and Design, we turn our attention to the Film and Photography academic programs.
The universal presence of smartphones with built-in cameras made the medium of photography more accessible than ever before. But, the Photography and Imaging students at Ringling College are learning the ability to move beyond the ordinary, and capture photos that create single-image narratives and evoke strong emotional reactions. Ringling’s Photography program is designed to guide our students as they dive into a thrilling new era of digital photography, while still basing their education first on the foundation of traditional analogue and darkroom practices. Students have access to our state-of-the-art computer labs, studio spaces, large-scale digital printers and scanners, darkrooms, high-quality cameras and interchangeable lenses, lighting equipment and more. But that’s just the beginning. They also learn how to use the latest technology and different multimedia outlets to tell their stories. The field of photography is so diverse and the needs are great – allowing graduates to utilize skill sets in myriad areas, based on their interests and passions.
One great example is this year’s Photography and Imaging Trustee Scholar, Matthew Troyer, a former military combat photographer. He sees photography as a powerful medium for important storytelling. “There are so many stories I want to tell,” he said, “and photography has given me an outlet to share my own story and the stories of others in an impactful way.” One of Matthew’s important projects brings to light the military experiences of veterans and combat trauma, as well as the tight family bonds these shared experiences create.
Another perk of Ringling’s Photography program is our connection to the International Center of Photography in NYC. The ICP is the world’s leading institution dedicated to the practice and understanding of photography and visual culture. Every year, Photography and Imaging majors compete to spend a year of their degree studying at the ICP, where they will be exposed to world-renowned faculty, challenging ideas and a diverse group of international students. Currently, Ringling College is one of three undergraduate programs in the country to offer this affiliation. From Ringling graduates directing photography departments at major corporations to nationally acclaimed, award-winning freelance photographers, Ringling’s Photography and Imaging alumni lead the way in telling stories through the lens.
On the other side of Ringling’s campus, you can find Film students immersed in the world of filmmaking, learning every step in the process from directing and producing to screenwriting, cinematography and sound, to post-production and more. Consistently ranked by The Hollywood Reporter Among the top 25 Film Schools in the country, students in this major have the opportunity to study either Narrative Film – the more traditional style of filmmaking – or Branded Entertainment – a quicker, punchier version of film specific for a product or cause.
Although the golden age of Hollywood is long behind us, filmmaking continues to evolve to incorporate new, state-of-the-art technologies. In the past 20 years, film production has been profoundly altered by the impact of rapidly improving digital technology, with almost all productions now being shot in digital formats, producing images better than that of traditional film projections. With new streaming platforms and home theaters, the future of movies and cinema continues to evolve. Because of the depth and breadth of the curriculum, Ringling College Film students start their professional lives with a head start, knowing everything that goes into making a great film.
Part of what makes Ringling College’s Film program unique is the Ringling College Studio Labs, the College’s 36,000-square-foot complex boasting two professional-level soundstages and a post-production facility. At the Studio Labs, Film students have the opportunity to learn from a whole galaxy of industry professionals, including Beau Bridges, Dylan McDermott, Andy Garcia, Matt Dillon, Richard Dreyfuss, Marisa Tomei, Anna Paquin, Forest Whitaker and more. They have all come to Sarasota to support the Ringling College Film program and work with our talented students, giving them a real world filming experience.
Today, our graduates work as directors and producers for major networks, have been recognized for their achievements at major film festivals, and help to redefine visual storytelling.
Former Executive Director of Sony Pictures Imageworks Ken Maruyama confirmed, “Ringling’s quality of work and the conceptual development behind it is at a very high professional level. The genuine passion for creativity here is at a higher level than any other school that we recruit from.” Ringling College is proud to support our students’ creative pursuits while they embark on this exciting new era of photography and filmmaking.
Dr Larry Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art & Design.