Manhattan Institute senior fellow Christopher F. Rufo and journalist Abigail Shrier join Brian C. Anderson to discuss their stories in City Journal’s new California special issue and the long-term trajectory of the Golden State.

Audio Transcript

Welcome back to 10 Blocks. This week’s special episode features Brian Anderson, our usual host, interviewing Christopher Rufo, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal, and journalist Abigail Shrier about their pieces in the brand-new California issue, “Can California be Golden Again?” We hope you enjoy.

Brian C. Anderson: I’m very glad to be back in California and see some old friends here and a lot of new faces. Chris and Abigail have both called California home at various times in their lives. Both have brought insightful analysis to the state's various challenges. So Chris, I'm going to start with you. Your reporting for City Journal has revealed a radical pedagogy that's increasingly commonplace in California's public schools. From Sacramento to San Diego, elementary, middle, and high schools are advancing what we could call an identitarian creed that sorts students based on skin color and that is validating a host of new genders. So could you describe the underlying philosophy driving this trend and how it is manifesting itself exactly in the classroom, and how did California's political environment allow for this transformation to take place?

Christopher F. Rufo: Well, I did a series of stories on critical race theory in K-12 schools and then gender ideology in K-12 schools. And as I was soliciting sources and talking to many people all over the country, for better or for worse, California was top of mind. And I had developed many sources in Los Angeles public schools, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, and elsewhere, and what you see is that the most vanguard educational theories that filter down from graduate schools of education, the first place where they tend to get a foothold is in California. I think the larger structural reason for this is that there is no opposition in the state that has the power to put breaks on anything. And so what you see in the internal coalition on the Democratic Left in a state like California that doesn't worry about competitive elections with Republicans is, they worry about competitive elections with Democratic Socialists, and Marxist Leninist, and gender ideologues.

And so you see that the center of gravity of the political life is so far to the left, and then there's really no bulwark that has formed—these bulwarks come up, they dissipate, they come up, they dissipate—and then you see even worse, external pressure leaves the state, and so you have a one-party state that resembles Central America much more than it does other parts of the United States as far as the contested political nature of things. And so what does this mean for K-12 schools? It means that any fashionable left-wing ideology is taken from the very complex, academic-paper style of discourse. It's distilled down into a PowerPoint presentation, a PDF document, K-12 lesson plans, digestible bits of content that are just distillations of the advanced academic theory, whether it's Marxist Leninism, Black Panther Party ideology, BLM ideology, all of the different flavors that you might sample.

They create these little content nodes, and what these content nodes are designed for are for K-12 teachers that may not want to read Kimberlé Crenshaw's intersectionality papers in the Harvard Law Review, but if you give them a PowerPoint like the one in San Diego Public schools that just said to white teachers, "You are racist," big capital letters, "You are racist." Well, all right, I get that. Tell me more. And so you have these ideas that are very consciously spread to K-12 because they know that that's where the impressionable kids are. I did a story in Santa Clara County. They were taking third-graders, dividing them up by race, telling certain students they were oppressors, other students they were oppressed, based on their skin color. And then the teacher training from the Santa Clara County Office of Education had a recorded Zoom call that was leaked to me. And they say very clearly, you have to get them when they're four, five, and six years old. You have to use kids' inherent empathy, and hijack those feelings and those vulnerabilities in order to make them left-wing activists from the beginning.

And so this is a concerted effort. It's now spread everywhere in the state of California. And the two major lines of attack are race and gender. You kind of know this intuitively, but really that's where the theories hang. And so you have kind of Marxist ideology, Black Panther ideology, critical race theory, BLM ideology on one track, that's kind of the historical development. And then in gender, and Abigail would probably know the history of it better than I would, is queer theory, starting the late 1980s, early '90s, and then transgender activism as its own discipline. And then what is, I think, in a rather unfortunate way, they're taking some of the goodwill for gay and lesbian Americans, which I think is part of our historical development, and they're saying, "Hey, we're going to take that goodwill, and we're going to take it to inject really radical stuff into the classroom."

This is stuff like teaching kids—some of the stuff you don't even want to say, but I mean it's really sex toys in the classroom. It's teaching kids how to do all sorts of naughty, naughty things that I would be even a little embarrassed to talk to my own wife about. But they're teaching six-year olds about it. And so that's the playing field. And I think the big question, which hopefully we'll get to is, what could be, in a state like California, possibly enough to start pushing back? That's the big question.

Brian C. Anderson: Abigail, you visited a notorious prostitution strip in South Los Angeles to conduct research for the essay Reihan mentioned, and it is a terrific essay. It's one of the more compelling things we've ever published—and most disturbing things—called “Predator’s Paradise.” So, prostitution remains illegal in California, but sex trafficking has proliferated in the state recently, exploded really, as a result of a recently passed law that you describe in the article that is stymieing law enforcement's ability to intervene in the sex trade. So can you explain what this law is, what its impact has been on women, and in particular younger women, and who is benefiting from this, and who is responsible for it?

Abigail Shrier: Sure. So in January I took a ride with two women, one, a former LAPD vice sergeant, on Figueroa, which is only one of the state's very large and very active hubs of human trafficking, also known as prostitution or selling of people, because a lot of these are girls, they're not women. A lot of them are underage. The law that was recently overturned was the anti-loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution statute. So under this statute, police officers used to be able to stop women who were in G-strings—these women were in G-string bikinis in the middle of the night, in the middle of the street. That's all they're wearing. And they're flagging down cars. And police officers used to be able to stop them and say, "How old are you? Do you need help?" Because, of course, their pimps are standing really close, they're about a block over, and they're watching.

These kids are basically slaves. And police can no longer make those stops because we overturn that statute. But it's only one of many statutes that have been passed lately in California that have been an enormous boon to sexual predators. In just the last four years, we have decriminalized intentionally giving a sex partner HIV. That was decriminalized. We have made California a sanctuary state for LGBTQ youth. You can come to the state and liberate yourself from concerned parents, as long as you say they weren't affirming of you. The court will take jurisdiction now. We have statutes that changed the sex-offender registry, so a 24-year old who has anal sex with a 14-year-old will no longer be placed on the sex offender registry. That was considered anti-LGBTQ.

And I was able to interview Senator Scott Wiener for the piece. He is the author of almost every one of these laws, certainly everyone that I just mentioned, or the sponsor. And in every case, like Chris was saying, these things are done in the name of LGBTQ rights. Of course the victims are often LGBTQ kids who show up here alone, looking to liberate themselves, or are trafficked through our LGBTQ youth centers, where a lot of trafficking occurs. And of course they're the victim of your 24-year old who had anal sex with them. So it's done in the name of LGBTQ, but of course women and children, some of whom identify as LGBTQ, are the biggest victims. So that is the game they play. And unfortunately, a lot of well-meaning people, there's something seductive to the idea, "We care about civil rights, we care about civil rights for gay people in this country." And there's something seductive—the second they mentioned LGBTQ, a lot of good people shut up, and they just don't oppose anything. And all of these laws have been virtually unopposed.

And I'll just add one more thing really quickly because California is, as Chris was saying, a model state for just how crazy things can get, and it really is a warning to every other state. We now have a bill in California and also in New Jersey that would require family court judges to give preferential custody to any parent who affirms the child's stated gender. So it effectively hamstrings family court judges in custody determinations. This is what's coming to America, and it starts here.

Brian C. Anderson: Yeah, it's extremely alarming. Chris, speaking of other states, you've been doing a lot of work in Florida, a place whose social, economic, and education policies are contrasting pretty dramatically with Californians at the moment. So you've worked with the governor, Ron DeSantis, to craft legislation restricting some of these practices in the state schools that we've been describing. So earlier this year you were appointed to the board of New College of Florida and tasked with helping to transform it from an underperforming and radicalized public university to a traditional liberal arts school. And you've been working on model legislation intended to restore sanity, basically, from the elementary school to the university. So what, in your view, does it take to recapture these besieged public institutions, these schools in particular?

Christopher F. Rufo: I think it starts, obviously first you have to win elections. That's something that for some reason we don't think of very often. "Oh, when you win elections, you get to do stuff." And even in red states, I think what we've seen in the last five years, 10 years is, you have these states that are 70 percent Republicans, supermajority in the legislature, the governor wins by 50 points, and they're scared to do anything. And so I talk to the legislators, like, "What are you guys scared of? You're in South Dakota, you're in West Virginia. You have a supermajority." And what it is is that those smaller states are scared of the backlash from corporate America, scared of the backlash from the media, and scared of the backlash from activists. And so they feel like because of their small size, they've been held essentially hostage.

If the NCAA pulls out, if the mining company gets upset, if they're large hospital system that's part of a conglomerate starts to push back, they crumble. So Florida and then to a lesser extent Texas have the requisite size. And then of course Governor DeSantis has the requisite margin of victory to actually have a mandate. And so I've been fortunate enough to work with the governor and his team on a number of these initiatives to basically say we're going to go methodically, institution by institution, and start recapturing them in a substantive way and start creating prohibitions on things we don't like, and start creating positive incentives for things that we do like. And this has flown in the face even of our friends and allies that are more libertarian in spirit on the right, "Well, we can't possibly meddle with the government institutions." And I try to explain to folks and say, wait a minute, this is the government.

You could say that you wish it didn't exist, but the fact is that it does. It's going to exist for as long as we can imagine into the future. And so the question is not should we have very small government or very large government. Look, I agree, the government should be smaller, but until we get there, we have to actually govern it. We have to actually have policy. We actually have to have values and priorities that are embedded in the policies and practices of these institutions.

And so we started with K-12. The Stop Woke Act said no racial scapegoating, no categorizing people into oppressor and oppressed. Very simple things. Honestly, if you look at the list of things, I mean if you're doing any of the things in the Stop Woke Act, you're doing something really horribly wrong to kids. You're telling them that they're inherently guilty because of their ancestry. These things are unAmerican, they're a violation of the Civil Rights Law. And then the governor said, "We're going to get that out of the classroom."

Second was gender ideology. They went K-3, the first bill that passed, no teaching on gender identities, human sexuality, sexual orientation. K-three: just lay off. They're five years old. And I always think too, it's like, man, these are adults, the kind of activist types, that are desperate to talk about their sexuality with other people's kids. That to me is a bit of a red flag. And Florida said, "No. Get out of K-3." And the reaction was furious. I mean the reaction was absolutely insane.

Audience Member:

Why was it limited to three?

Christopher F. Rufo: Well, here's the story. So then that was a criticism. Why was it limited to K-3? There's a new bill that's going through the legislature that's going to be K-8 to say, "You know what? Let parents teach kids." And it was a bit of a fight. But the governor is knows how to read the polls. He looks at these policies. They're very popular in Florida, they're very popular nationally. And what I think the other element that is essential is his courage. He stuck his neck out there. I tried to help to the extent that I could. And so now we're working up the chain from K-12, to public universities, to state agencies. And really what we're going to do is design a series of policies to create an alternative model of governance that says, "These are our values. These are the ideas and principles and priorities that we want to transmit through the government."

And the ultimate thing, and I think what the predicate of this, the kind of constitutional basis of this is, the people have every right to regulate their own government. And if the Left tells us, "You can't determine what's in the classroom, you can't take over public universities, you can't do this, you can't do that," what they're saying in essence is, we want to let you win elections, but any action that you take to shape the public life is illegitimate and we're going to try to take it away from you. And so this to me is not just a test of "do you want critical race here? Do you want gender ideology? Do you want zombie studies in universities?" It's a test of, "Do we have a meaningful democracy still?" And I hope that the next couple years prove that we do, and then inspire other people around the country to actually win elections and then govern to the best that they can.

Brian C. Anderson: Thank you, Chris. Abigail, in your book you talk about the transgender craze holding so much influence over American children. You wrote this a few years ago. Three times as many children were diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2021 as in 2017," when you were probably starting the book. So, what is the evidence that points to this phenomenon, this incredible shift, being an example of a natural development as some people are arguing or as a form of social contagion?

Abigail Shrier: Oh, it's very obviously a social contagion. That should have been completely uncontroversial. I mean, look, we're all subject to social contagion. That's what it means to be human, to some extent. This is not a surprise. So teenagers, especially, teenage girls feel uncomfortable in their bodies at that age. They tend to be very susceptible to things like social media influencers, and their woke teachers, and their woke therapist. And this became sort of the latest craze. It was the anorexia of our age. All that should have been relatively uncontroversial. The thing that made it controversial, of course, was that the gender activists were terrified that this message would get out. They didn't want parents to have information to be able to evaluate the medical procedures that were being touted for their kids. They didn't want doctors to be able to have any courage to stand up to these things.

So you'll notice that there are very few doctors who do stand up under their own name. Honestly, it's really shocking and a little shameful how few doctors have stood up. They often come up to me and they'll say to me at conferences, "Do you think the medical malpractice suits will take care of this?" And what they're saying is, "Can they take care of this so I don't have to say anything?" That's what they're saying. They're saying, "I don't want to stick my neck out. I've got kids in college. Can someone else do this for me?" And I say to them, "Look, I'm a journalist, you're a doctor. I can report on what other doctors have said, but of course, I'm appealing to someone else's authority."

But American doctors don't want to, they've watched all their professional organizations be taken over, just like lawyers have watched the ACLU get taken over. But here's the funny thing. If they take over enough institutions, there's nowhere else to go. So now we're having judges, we're seeing our first woke judges. They're graduating medical school—numberless med school graduates are now woke. At some point there won't be anywhere else to go, and there's no one else who's going to do the dirty work.

Brian C. Anderson: It's a very troubling situation. Let me ask a question to both of you. Chris, you earlier mentioned that California's outsize power culturally means that its policies, however crazy they are, consistently wind up getting emulated in jurisdictions across the country. And this is really for both of you. So culturally too, California's example is incredibly influential. You've both, in your writing, exposed the detrimental effects of the California model. Can that model be changed here in California? And if not, how can it be prevented from defining the rest of the United States?

Christopher F. Rufo: I mean, that's a hard question. I was born and raised in California. I grew up in Sacramento and lived in the Bay Area. I lived down here in the Los Angeles area. So I know California very well and have for many years. And it's a hard question. I don't have an answer to it because what I think we see is that a lot of the people who are the most capable end up fleeing, and people stick around, people have family, people have a business, and whatnot. But I talk to a lot of people in high tech, and people that would have the capacity to start seeding organizations that want to change.

And I mean, they're all basically saying, "My lawyer, my lobbyists, they're watching the legislature. If they start going after my cash with a wealth tax, we're all ready to leave. All of us are building houses in Nevada, we're building houses in Texas. I have a couple houses in Miami." And so you see that it's very precarious, and the state itself is very precarious given that it's so dependent on these very wealthy people, and you have serious discussions where you say, is it going to go the Venezuela model, where things start to go a little sideways, they start to try to take assets, and all the productive and capable people flee, putting it into a negative spiral. That's one possibility, certainly.

The other possibility, and I think it really is a possibility, is someone has to be willing to step up. And I think what's happening with doctors on the gender ideology and trans medical care surgeries is happening here in the same manner, but it's also happening on a bigger scale on every issue. I just don't think that you can have the homelessness crisis that California does, the cost of living crisis. I mean its crisis on top of crisis, on top of crisis. And this only works if two things hold. One is that the political left suppresses reality where you know you can say, "Hey, I don't think that having tents full of drug addicts sleeping outside of my kid's elementary school is such a swell idea." And then they hit you so hard that most people, well-meaning people say, "Well, that's not a problem because there's not something for them," or "they should have a house," or "they're not drug addicts." Actually, there's no evidence of that.

I mean, they've created a reality suppression machine that is so powerful that people spew obvious lies. I mean very obvious, like Soviet Union-level lies. And that passes as conventional wisdom. They fact check these lies and say that they're actually truths. I mean, it's a whole machine. And so I think what would have to happen is some people would have to get together with significant means, put their money where their mouth is, but also take a significant reputational risk.

And so when I have private dinners with people in Silicon Valley or nice parts of LA, they're always very private. They're always very, like, "Don't tell anyone you're here." That can't hold. I mean, it really can't hold. And I think that the people that are rock stars in their field, the people that have high notoriety, people that have huge companies, the dam will break when enough of them stand up. And I feel like, look, you can talk about the Rockefellers and the Gettys, and all these old families, and you could say they were very naughty robber barons, but look at what they did. Look at the libraries that they built. Look at the museums that they've built. Look at the great arts and culture and education in philanthropies and hospitals. I would say to critics, and maybe there's some of you in this room, our billionaires, our plutocrats, are nothing like that. And it's a damn shame. And they really need to get started.

And look, I get it. You run a huge company, you're on boards of directors, you're famous, and you're going to get tarnished as anti-LGBTQ or racist or whatever. Someone's going to have to say, have the stones to say what, "F that. I'm done with that. I have enough money. You can't touch me. I'm going to go hard at this." And so until we have leadership at that kind of level—we're journalists; we can't do it all. We can help, but we need to have some people that actually have the capacity and the power and the resources to mount an opposition. And look, we still have a free country. They may lie like it's the Soviet Union, but it isn't the Soviet Union. And so I just think that the biggest problem that's facing us is cowardice. And I really believe that.

Brian C. Anderson: Well, Abigail, would you like to add your own experience here? You've had some suppression of your book for a while, although it's wound up being a bestseller.

Abigail Shrier: Yeah, I mean, my book's carried in almost no libraries in America. You cannot get it. People will donate it. It's the most requested banned book in Canada in the last 15 years. The suppression is endless. I mean, Target took it away and never brought it back. Look, the engines of suppression are pretty impressive. They're pretty advanced. My own take on the California question is, there is no fixing California, but we can be an important example to the rest of the country. It's really important that the rest of the country know what happens here, because it's coming for them. And as Chris said, we have a terrible problem of cowardice.

I always think of the Golda Meir airline, "Don't be so humble, you're not that great." And I think of it all the time because the number of people who say, "Oh, I just have to wait for this. I just have to wait for this." And I will say to them, I am quoting you on your expertise. You just have to tell me, is this a medically prudent procedure? You don't have to tell me about politics. I'm just asking you to opine on your expertise, and they're afraid to do it. That's the kind of suppression that's sort of inexcusable. If you are a doctor, if you're a law professor, wherever you find yourself, you have an expertise. And if you can't comment on that, then we really don't have much free speech in this country.

Brian C. Anderson: One problem, Chris, with trying to leave California is that it comes after you. This is a little off topic, but it's worth talking about your own experience with California regulations.

Christopher F. Rufo: It's an interesting story, and it's actually in the issue that you have here. It's a Diarist column in the magazine, something I'd never done before. No one wants to know about my personal life. But this was relevant because I started a non-profit film studio in California in 2008. I did four documentaries for PBS, I sold a film to Netflix. I was in the documentary world. I did films here in LA and elsewhere. And then when I moved to Washington State, where I live now, I said, "All right, well I'll transfer the nonprofit corporation from California to Washington State because I don't have a mailbox down here anymore. I don't live here." And I said, "All right, do the paperwork," and word comes back, "No, you can't leave." I said, "Wait, what?" "Well, we don't re-domicile non-profit corporations."

You have to have a kind of—I don't even remember the technical term. The lawyer told me, "You have to have a kind of separate branch of the non-profit that's like a mirror image organization, but you still have to file paperwork California." "All right, I'll do it." I have two entities. I'm filing double paperwork. It's like I can't leave. All right. And then it comes to a point where I kind of left my film career, kind of wanted to wind down the organization, start a new organization, started working with Manhattan Institute, and I thought, "I'm going to get them this time. I'm just going to shut it down. I'm going to file paperwork for dissolution, and I'll be gone finally." And then word came back. "You can't do that either. You can't close down a non-profit corporation until you jump through about 100 different hoops.”

And then, as they take six months to get back to you, they hit you with other paperwork. And if you don't file the paperwork from the past into the future, which is impossible, then you have to start from the beginning. And I've been in this nightmare of trying to shut down a non-profit organization for almost two years now. They won't let me leave. I keep getting fines. I'm running up thousands upon thousands of dollars in legal bills. I've left maybe 100 messages. Armen here on my team has also left many messages with all different offices. They run you in circles. And the real point is, and perhaps this is the case of when they talk about business closures in California, I bet you they're a lot higher, but they kind of keep these zombie entities alive forever, and they try to just milk you for everything that it's worth.

And so I'm in a kind of Kafka novel right now with the state of California. I'm C., and I'm going from office to office and eventually I'm sure I'm going to get in trouble. That's really how the story's going to end. So we'll see. I'll probably get some nasty letter from the attorney general at some point. But it is really true. And I think that you need to watch out, watch out even if you decide to ever leave, because they're not going to let you leave. And they even have tax proposals saying that if you leave California, you have to pay taxes in California for 10 years subsequent to when you leave. I mean, it is a really nasty game that they play. And so that's kind of a funny story.

Brian C. Anderson: Yes, funny in a Kafka sort of way. I'd like to ask both of you, starting with you, Abigail, about the role of parents in the current climate, because this seems essential. You're both parents yourselves. The various phenomena you've written about can only, I think, truly be opposed through vigorous parental involvement, both in the sense of deeper involvement with your own kids, and in terms of getting involved in opposing these trends in schools and other institutions, and as citizens. But parents do face unique challenges today, I think. The cultural climate has made most people dread, and this has come up, being labeled as intolerant. And of course we've got this ubiquitous technology from social media platforms to smartphones, which presents this massive obstacle now to moderating the influence of the broader culture on one's kids. So considering what we've been discussing today, I wonder if, starting with you, Abigail, if you could boil down a message for parents today, what would it be?

Abigail Shrier: Parents are the single most important group in this country right now. Maybe they always have been, but that’s especially true now. They are the only group that cannot be bought because when it comes to their kids, they are all the same. Almost every parent will do anything for their kid. There have been a lot of things that conservatives have gotten very upset about like Drag Queen Story Hour. Now obviously I would regard it as foolish to take your kid to Drag Queen Story Hour. But this issue, which has exhausted so much attention is probably, I don't know, 1/100th, 1/1000th as important as the issues of custody, which is now being eroded across the country. I'm working on a piece on this now, but the assault on parent custody coming from every direction in this country, through the state court system, is really shocking. It's very alarming, and it's a much greater threat to the country, to our kids, than Drag Queen Story Hour.

And I would just say this a conservative, I always would try to think of what is the governing principle here? And I suppose my governing principle has always been that when it comes to things like gender ideology, parents generally know what's best for their kid, and they can be generally trusted to take care of their own kids, even if we disagree. The problem, the real threat, to everybody is when the state interposes itself between the parents and children. And that's what it's increasingly doing, certainly in this state, in all three branches of government.

Brian C. Anderson: Chris?

Christopher F. Rufo: I think two things. First off, you have to be prudent about your own family, your own kids. I have three kids at home. I think that the first step is to secure a barrier around your own kids, and sometimes that means finding a better neighborhood, a better city, a better state. It certainly means finding a school that is not only going to not oppose your values, but actually affirms your values and helps transmit your values. I have my own kids. We're finally in a grade school, conservative, classical Catholic school. The priest on Sunday does the homily that's critical race theory is against the word of God. And then we have five Dominican nuns and they're always saying, "Chris, we're praying for you on the gender thing." And so they don't let the kids have cell phones, even in their private life, when they're in their K through eight.

And so we found a community that is a kind of oasis that has a protective barrier. It's like a walled garden, that metaphor of the walled garden, and where we feel like our kids can have a real childhood, they can have innocence, they can have friendships, and they can be protected for as long as possible from some of not only the vicious ideologies, but really the vicious people. Because some of the stuff that I've uncovered in my reporting, I mean, no conscientious and goodhearted person will be doing. And then you see that it's actually the policy of the government in these places to be pushing this stuff. And so I think that's number one. You have to protect your own kids and do whatever it takes.

But number two, and this actually hit home recently, I was rereading John Locke's Second Treatise. He has a line in there that really kind of shook me. And he said, "Ultimately, the law is more powerful than the family." And I said, "Wait a minute, is that true?" And I grappled with it. And I think ultimately he's right. And so you can't just say, "I'm going to protect my own family and then everything is going to be fine." I think what he's saying implicitly is that the social norms of the community, the social compact, the rules of the road, the rules of behavior, the set of values that we all live by has an enormous power over the individual lives that in the aggregate is even more powerful than an individual family, which can try to protect against it. And so what that means, I think, is that we all have a duty not just to protect our own, not just to protect our little communities, but to really fight in public life.

And ultimately, look, we have a massive government in the United States. We spend more as a percentage of GDP than communist China on our public sector. We are more "socialist" than the Marxist-Leninist government of the PRC. And so what that means, certainly in the near term and the medium term is, we have to fight for it. We can't abdicate. We can't say that we're satisfied with libertarian thinking. We have a government, we have public schools, we have public universities. Look, 90 percent of kids are in public K-12. Seventy-five percent of college students are in public universities. And so if you're not fighting so that those things transmit the right set of values, you're going to be losing in such a catastrophic way that the country will be unrecognizable in a generation.

And so what we're trying to do in Florida, there's a bill in the legislature right now that is going to be a big fight. But we're saying, you know what? Pseudo-scientific, kind of non-rigorous activist disciplines such as Critical Race Theory, gender studies, queer theory, critical ethnic studies, it would wipe out all of those majors and minors in every public university in the state of Florida.

It would basically say the public has a right to regulate the government, and the transmission of values is critical. And again, going back to Locke and the founders, freedom is not license, right? Freedom does not mean the license to do whatever you want. Freedom has to be ordered, it has to be toward something higher. It's in some ways freedom is, or in academic freedom, freedom and speech, et cetera, are procedural values toward an end value. And so you have to get the ends right. And the work of government, the work of public discourse, the work of the public process is trying to figure out, "Well, what are we aiming toward, and can we set those values at the end and then arrange our institutions in a way that leads toward those? And I think we've abandoned that for too long, and it's time for conservatives to start getting serious about it again.

Brian C. Anderson: Thank you all for coming. I want to thank our panelists.

Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

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