Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) gave an impassioned speech on the House floor Thursday against the Parents Bill of Rights Act, which would require schools to publish their curricula and reading lists online.
“Look at these books that have already been banned due to Republican measures,” she said while holding up several books. “‘The Life of Rosa Parks,’ this apparently is ‘too woke’ by the Republican Party. ‘Song of Solomon’ is ‘unacceptable’ to Republican politics.”
The lawmaker essentially argued that the intent behind the bill, which House Republicans passed Friday, wasn’t to provide parents with more information about their children’s education — but to control what students can and can’t read.
“The Life of Rosa Parks,” a biography of a civil rights hero who fought segregation, is one of 176 titles that schools in Duval County, Florida, removed from classrooms for review, per Insider. According to nonprofit PEN America, the books in review have been in storage for months “with little indication of when they might return to classrooms.”
A textbook publisher used in 45,000 Florida schools recently removed any reference of Rosa Parks’ race in a draft lesson plan, per The New York Times. The publisher, Studies Weekly, said this was done to comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) “Stop WOKE Act.”
“In Florida we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory,” said DeSantis in his 2021 proposal of the law. “We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching our kids to hate our country or to hate each other.”
While Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) gave a similarly impassioned speech Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez expounded on the troubling focus by Republicans on gender and sexual orientation — and said nearly half the banned books are “specifically addressing LGBT issues.”
“This Republican bill is asking the government to force the outing of LGBT people before they are ready,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “And talking about the rights of parents in this gallery today, the National Parents Union is here saying, ‘Don’t do this.’”
Ocasio-Cortez noted the National Parents Union, a network of advocacy organizations and activists, has been “asking the Republican Party to keep culture wars outside of classrooms” to no avail.
Perhaps most poignantly, she was baffled by those who claim to champion free speech while only working to stifle it.
“When we talk about progressive values, I can say what my progressive value is,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “And that is freedom over fascism.”