Marshall Center for Educational Options

Improv⁠i⁠ng Campus Cul⁠t⁠ure: Flor⁠i⁠da H⁠i⁠gher Ed ⁠i⁠s Fac⁠i⁠ng Challenges

By: William Mattox / 2023

William Mattox

DIRECTOR OF THE J. STANLEY MARSHALL CENTER FOR EDUCATIONAL OPTIONS

Marshall Center for Educational Options

2023

Introduction

Author Stephen King caused quite a stir last July when he tweeted, “DeSantis signs bill requiring Florida students, professors to register political views with state. I. Can’t. Even.”

Within a short period of time, the Twitter post received more than 25,000 shares and 135,000 likes from followers of the “King of Horror.” In fact, King’s tweet generated so much buzz that a bevy of “fact-checkers” from Snopes, PolitiFact, VerifyThis, and the Associated Press went scrambling to find supporting evidence for King’s claim.

They found none.

Indeed, what everyone caught up in the Twitter fright-frenzy seemed to forget was that Stephen King’s forte isn’t just horror. It’s fiction.

And like many recent national media reports about Florida education, King’s tweet did not square with the facts. All of the various fact-checking services declared King’s tweet “false.” And all traced King’s (unintentionally) fictional post to a 2021 Salon article that had advanced this same narrative. Curiously, Salon’s editors altered the headline to their story – 13 months after it had originally run! – once the fact-checkers exposed their folly. In the end, King issued a mea culpa. “I regret having posted the headline without being more confident the story was correct,” King’s statement read. “Salon is usually more reliable. Twitter is a constant learning experience, and I will try to do better.”

The lesson here isn’t just that all of us should be careful on Twitter – it’s that all of us should be especially alert to misinformation about what is happening in Florida education. Because there’s a lot of “horror fiction” going around these days. And much of this misinformation appears to be a hyperbolic reaction to Florida leaders’ legitimate attempts to address some very serious problems in education – problems too often ignored by political and academic leaders in other parts of the country.

Read “Improving Campus Culture: Higher Ed is Facing Challenges” here.