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'Oh, Florida!' and the State's Awesome Higher Ed People

Why I'm obsessed with Florida.

December 8, 2016
 
 

Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country by Craig Pittman

Published in July of 2016.

I’m weirdly obsessed with Florida. 

Maybe this Florida fascination comes from reading all those Carl Hiaasen books. 

Or perhaps my interest in the state has roots in my training as a demographer - as if you want to see the future of the rest of the U.S. (by age structure and ethnicity) - then you should visit Florida today.

Maybe the real reason for my Florida fixation is the Florida higher ed people that I’ve been able to get to know.  Florida higher ed people are invariably and always awesome. 

First, they are always doing so much.  Every Florida higher ed person I know is in the middle of rolling out huge numbers of new programs (usually online), new degrees (also online), and new educational experiments.  Higher education in Florida seems to move at a pace and a scale that is completely foreign to those of us working in the traditional New England higher ed world.  

It is not just the pace, scale, and ambition of Florida higher education.  It is that the Florida higher ed people that I meet - particularly those working at the intersection of learning and technology - seem to be having so much fun.  Florida academic folks are the people you want at your parties.  They take their work seriously, but not so much themselves - and they seem unfazed by any of the higher ed and edtech weirdness going on around them.  

Those are some of the reasons that I downloaded Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.

If you are looking for a book that is as mentally un-taxing to read as a Florida beach vacation - and you are also Florida obsessed - then I recommend this book.  Keep your expectations low and you will enjoy your time reading this book.

The book is mostly filled with stories about Florida residents behaving strangely.  Pittman tries (mostly unsuccessfully) to come up with a theory for the tendency of Florida residents and visitors to act in strange (and often criminal) ways - perhaps you will have better explanations.  

Some things that I learned in this (very quick to read) book are that Florida is ranks first in the nation in mortgage fraud, tax fraud, and identity theft.  Florida is number one in the nation in bicyclist traffic deaths, and Orlando is the most dangerous place in the country for pedestrians.  Rates of accidental shooting in Florida are twice the national average. All things to keep in mind the next time you are in Florida for an edtech conference.

Florida is now our fourth largest state (about 20 million people), a real accomplishment considering that in 1940 it was the least populated Southern state, with just under 2 million residents.  Further, Florida only trails Nevada in the portion of residents born in the state - with two-thirds coming from somewhere else.

One thing that I didn’t know that I learned from Oh, Florida! is just how much federal money flows to the state.  In 2011 Florida got more than $577 billion from the federal government in transfer payment, entitlement checks, and payments for government contracts and programs.  That is about $30,000 per resident.  Why Floridians complain about the federal government is beyond my comprehension.

Can you recommend any other good books either set in or about Florida?

Do you share my Florida obsession?

What are you reading?

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