This isn’t satire. I kid you not.
The DeSantis administration has proposed a rule for Florida’s public campuses that would prevent the teaching of issues “that polarize or divide society among political, ideological, moral, or religious beliefs.”
Back in May, DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 266, banning the state’s public colleges and universities from using public funds to “advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, or promote or engage in political or social activism.” But the law, which took effect in July, never defined those terms, instead leaving that up to the Board of Governors that oversees those state schools. Now the board has done just that. In draft regulation obtained by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the board proposes that the ban apply to all campus programs and activities in which the college or university “endorses or promotes a position” on “topics that polarize or divide society among political, ideological, moral, or religious beliefs, positions, or norms.”
This idiocy is the logical outcome of redefining education as job training–a belief near and dear to contemporary Republican hearts. Just crank out worker bees–and for heaven sakes, don’t let them learn anything from our human history of deeply-contested political, ideological, moral or religious theories and beliefs!
UnderS.B. 266, Florida’s public colleges and universities are prohibited from offering general education classes that “distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics” or that include “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.” The law also bars public higher education institutions from using state or federal funds for activities or programs that “advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion”—making Florida’s anti-DEI law one of the most restrictive of the dozens of such laws introduced across the United States. A DeSantis press release announcing the bill’s signing declared it is meant to “prevent woke ideologies from continuing to coopt our state universities and state colleges.”
I have a proposal: rather than this tortured effort to describe matters that will now be forbidden on campus, just reduce the bill to its essence: “Education will not be allowed.”
Think my snark is an over-reaction? Just look at the draft resolution:
In addition to defining “social issues” as “topics that polarize or divide society among political, ideological, moral, or religious beliefs, positions, or norms,” it defines “political or social activism” as “any activity organized with a purpose of effecting or preventing change to a government policy, action, or function, or any activity intended to achieve a desired result related to social issues, where the university endorses or promotes a position in communications, advertisements, programs.” “Diversity, equity, or inclusion,” meanwhile, “is any program, activity, or policy that promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals, or classifies such individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
As several pundits have observed, today’s GOP is the party of projection: the Florida effort to control what is discussed in the state’s classrooms is precisely the “indoctrination” that they pretend is occurring under “woke” auspices.
How does one teach the Crusades or the Reformation or the colonizing of America without noting the religious beliefs that polarized people living at those times? How do you teach philosophy without examining the contending perspectives of the philosophers, or discuss the role of women in politics without reference to the social “norms” that originally denied women the franchise?
Are efforts to prevent rape on campus evidence of “differential treatment” of women? Speaking of “evidence,” what does evidence that a university is “promoting equity” look like? (I always thought “equity” meant fundamental fairness–I guess we don’t want that on campus….)
Education is typically defined as the process of acquiring knowledge and developing the powers of reasoning and judgment. Education may also extend to the acquisition of specialized skills needed for a career or profession, but it is usually understood to require the development of critical thinking, differentiating it from mere job training and from indoctrination.
DeSantis is well on his way to destroying higher education in Florida.
He began with attacks on New College of Florida, a public liberal arts college that was forced to alter its curriculum and programs. DeSantis installed conservative ideologue and education foe Christopher Rufo as a member of the college’s board of trustees, and together they worked to “remake” New College, which immediately lost more than a third of its faculty–a fact DeSantis hailed as permitting the “replacement of far-left faculty with new professors aligned with the university’s mission.”
I don’t know what that mission is, but it sure isn’t education.