DeSantis Takes On the Education Establishment, and Builds His Brand – The New York Times
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, as he positions himself for a run for president next year, has become an increasingly vocal culture warrior, vowing to take on liberal orthodoxy and its champions, whether they are at Disney, on Martha’s Vineyard or in the state’s public libraries.
But his crusade has perhaps played out most dramatically in classrooms and on university campuses. He has banned instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade, limited what schools and employers can teach about racism and other aspects of history and rejected math textbooks en masse for what the state called “indoctrination.” Most recently, he banned the College Board’s Advanced Placement courses in African American studies for high school students.
On Tuesday, Governor DeSantis, a Republican, took his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment, announcing a proposed overhaul of the state’s higher education system that would eliminate what he called “ideological conformity.” If enacted, courses in Western civilization would be mandated, diversity and equity programs would be eliminated, and the protections of tenure would be reduced.
His plan for the state’s education system is in lock step with other recent moves — banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, shipping a planeload of Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard and stripping Disney, a once politically untouchable corporate giant in Florida, of favors it has enjoyed for half a century.
His pugilistic approach was rewarded by voters who re-elected him by a 19 percentage-point margin in November.
Appearing on Tuesday at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, one of the state’s 28 publicly funded state and community colleges, Mr. DeSantis vowed to turn the page on agendas that he said were “hostile to academic freedom” in Florida’s higher education system. The programs “impose ideological conformity to try to provoke political activism,” Mr. DeSantis said. “That’s not what we believe is appropriate for the state of Florida.”
He had already moved to overhaul the leadership of the New College of Florida, a small liberal arts school in Sarasota that has struggled with enrollment, but calls itself a place for “freethinkers.” It is regarded as among the most progressive of Florida’s 12 public universities.
Mr. DeSantis pointed to low enrollment and test scores at New College as part of the justification for seeking change there.
“If it was a private school, making those choices, that’s fine, I mean, what are you going to do,” he said. “But this is paid for by your tax dollars.”
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