Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis triggered a setback this week when he signed legislation to combat so-called educational induction in colleges and universities shortly after the state banned critical race theory in its public schools.
“It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you would be exposed to many different ideas. Unfortunately, the norm is really that these are more intellectually oppressive environments, ”DeSantis said during a news conference at a Fort Myers middle school.
The new law requires colleges and universities to conduct an annual survey that measures “intellectual freedom and perspective”
But critics fear the assessment will instead end up scaring teachers, cooling free speech and disproportionately representing the perspectives of those who feel dissatisfied. They are also concerned that the data could be used to penalize faculties or universities.
Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner challenging DeSantis to governor next year, compared his actions to “what authoritarian regimes do”.
DeSantis calls for “non-existent issues” and, along with Republican lawmakers, “targets our public universities with partisan attacks,” added Josh Weierbach, executive director of Florida Watch, a progressive organization.
“It is unfortunate that our governor continues to fabricate false controversies designed to distract Floridians from his gruesome record of raising taxes and producing culture war conflicts to appeal to Republican presidential voters in 2024,” said Progress Florida CEO Mark Ferrulo, in a statement.
The fire measure takes effect July 1 and is one of three education-related bills that DeSantis signed into law this week. Another will ensure that high school students “receive instruction on the evils and totalitarian ideologies of communism” during the government class, he said.
At the urging of DeSantis, the Florida Board of Education also recently banned teachers from teaching critical race theory, which analyzes racism as a systemic, enduring part of American life and has been armed with Republicans who say oppression education in this form is divisive. The board also ruled out materials associated with the New York Times’ 1619 project, a highly acclaimed effort that focuses on the consequences of slavery as well as the contributions of black Americans.
“It is not worth the tax dollars and it is not something we will support in the future,” he warned.
Other Republicans quickly showed their support.
“What you do not hear much about from our universities is what matters most: the diversity of the mind. The diversity of ideas, ”said Florida Speaker Chris Sprowls.
“We have decided that an ideological standard wins the day, but the thing is, we are losing because we do not have real conversations.”