Ron DeSantis is moving Florida education to the right



Florida has 28 public colleges, and on Wednesday, the presidents of each of them signed a collective statement saying they will work to “ensure that all initiatives, instruction and activities” carried out at their institutions “do not promote any ideology that suppresses intellectual and academic learning.” freedom, freedom of expression, diversity of views and the search for truth in teaching and learning.

The next sentence clears up any confusion caused by this sweeping statement.

“As such,” he said, “our institutions do not fund or support any practice, policy, or institutional academic requirement that compels us to believe in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality.” If critical race theory (CRT) is to be taught, the statement continued, it should be introduced “as one of many theories and objectively”.

Yes, college presidents have assured the public that they run their institutions from CRT, an academic mode that examines, among other things, how racism is embedded in government and social systems. They did so not because CRT was in any way academically discredited, but rather because it became the focus of right-wing criticism after a renewed focus on the racial issues that began there. a few years ago. The opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement was a wake-up call about the teaching of racial inequality to children. It has become an attempt – with some obvious motivation – to portray educators and liberals as politically brainwashed children.

Nowhere has the decline been more dramatic or pronounced than in Florida.

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The announcement of the college presidents did not happen in a vacuum. They did not collectively review the CRT material and determined that it was inappropriate for their students to review it. Instead, a statement came letter The office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) sent to the schools, in which he demanded “a complete list of all campus employees, programs and activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion – commonly known as DEI initiatives -” and a critical race theory. . In addition, the list requested by the mayor’s office should include the number of employees and the limits of funding required for each. The danger was clear.

After the college presidents’ statement was released, the state Department of Education, under DeSantis’ jurisdiction, issued an entirely political press release to celebrate it.

“Today, the presidents of the Florida College System (FCS) supported Governor Ron DeSantis’ vision for higher education, an environment free from innovation, an environment open to the pursuit of truth and a culture of intellectual autonomy for all students. ” he read. “FCS presidents issued a joint statement at the Florida State Board of Education meeting that rejects the progressive agenda of higher education and vows to remove all woke positions and ideologies by February 1, 2023.”

A quote from the press release noted that the state education commissioner had pledged to “instill an ideology-free education.”

That back-and-forth was a microcosm of how DeSantis sought to overhaul education in the state, a broad effort aimed at all academic levels. To do so, he signed new legislation, but also, as here, used the indirect powers of his office.

For young Floridians, there have been several changes since DeSantis took office. One of the most publicized fights of his first term was his defense of legislation to restrict discussion of same-sex relationships – a bill known to critics as “don’t say gay.” . As Bill softened his tongue on his way to his office, the rhetoric around him hardened; A spokesman for DeSantis described those who oppose the legislation as those who support preparing children for sexual abuse.

DeSantis also advocated for the passage of the Stop the Awakening Act, which refers to popular discrimination on racial issues or political issues deemed leftist. (Or in Florida, as DeSantis refers to all the things he doesn’t like.) That led his administration to note the rejection of a number of elementary math textbooks that it claimed contained elements of CRT, though it quickly became clear that many of the rejected textbooks did not. Anything close to a CRT.

The state Department of Education (DOE) also released a new civics curriculum supported by DeSantis. Last summer, a number of teachers received training on the new curriculum. Some of those who spoke to reporters (and presented slides from the training) noted that the program, while trying to soften the country’s pro-slavery past, favors conservative political views.

“Every lesson we teach is based on history,” the Department of Education (DOE) said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, “not ideology or any kind of doctrine.”

The DOE announced this week that the national organization that creates AP programs has rejected the Advanced Placement Program for African American Studies, which it has been developing for more than a decade. The state said it had “no educational value.” The state still offers an AP program in European history.

DeSantis pushed for educational reform in other ways as well. He continued his success last year with a plan to empower conservative school board members by endorsing a slate of school board candidates. Soon after the nominees were installed, a number of educators and administrators who supported the covid-19 precautions began to be fired. The DOE also formed a group that included conservative activists to create standards that school librarians would have to follow before purchasing new books.

Last summer, The Washington Post reported on DeSantis’ efforts to reshape higher education in Florida and the concerns of college professors.

“Governor Ron DeSantis has signed legislation that would change the tenure system, remove Florida universities from generally accepted accreditation practices and mandate an ‘annual diversity survey’ for students and faculty,” write Susan Svrluga and Lori Rozsa. Their article also quoted a Florida Atlantic University professor as saying, “It’s no exaggeration to say that the DeSantis administration poses an existential threat to higher education in the state of Florida.

The declaration of eligibility of 28 colleges in the state is certainly a reflection of the pressure exerted by the administration. But in recent weeks, there has been a direct attempt to reshape education. DeSantis has appointed six new trustees to the board of New College of Florida, a public liberal arts school known for its progressive approach to education. Among them is Christopher Rufo, a writer and activist who, while actively diluting the concept’s meaning, has helped mainstream anti-CRT rhetoric.

“We hope that the New College of Florida will become a classic Florida college in the Hillsdale sense [College] South,” DeSantis’ chief of staff told the conservative Daily Caller. Hillsdale is one of the nation’s top conservative schools.

Overall—or indeed, even if we look at a few examples—the direction of DeSantis’ efforts is clear. The governor hopes to drown out debates about race and sexuality in favor of right-wing rhetoric and agendas. It is taking steps to expand the capacity to do this at the local level.

He does so while remaining the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, giving him a job opportunity that would allow him to run the federal Department of Education.

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