Republican Ron DeSantis, a possible candidate for US president, says diversity programs serve as a ‘political filter’.
Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida in the southeastern United States, has announced plans to block state colleges from having programs on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as critical race theory (CRT).
The Republican governor released the proposal Tuesday as part of a larger package of higher education legislation expected to be considered by the state’s GOP-controlled House of Representatives when its regular session begins in March.
DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, has been a vocal critic of critical race theory, which examines systemic racism, along with programs on diversity, equity and inclusion, commonly known as DEI.
Critical race theory is a way of thinking about US history through the prism of racism. Scholars developed it during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what they saw as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights laws of the 1960s. It focuses on the idea that racism is systemic in national institutions, which function to maintain white supremacy in society.
“I think people want to see real academics and they want to get rid of some of the political window dressing that seems to be behind all of this,” DeSantis said at a news conference in the coastal city of Bradenton.
In a statement, the governor’s office said the proposal “raises the standards of learning and civil discourse in Florida’s public higher education” by “prohibiting higher education institutions from using any funding, regardless of source, to support DEI, CRT and other discriminatory initiatives.”
DeSantis pledged “no funding” for such programs. “I think it’s very important because it actually serves as an ideological filter, a political filter,” he said.
The proposal was expected after the DeSantis administration in late December asked state colleges to provide spending data and other information about programs related to critical race theory and diversity, equity and inclusion.
The governor is also pushing for education administrators to “remodel” courses to provide historically accurate information and not include identity politics. DeSantis’ proposals have not yet been introduced as formal legislation, but the state’s Republican-controlled House is often willing to implement his initiatives.
DeSantis and other conservatives have long argued that critical race theory and diversity, equity, and inclusion agendas cause racial division and discrimination—and are often cited in critiques of what they often call “woke” ideology in education.
Last year, the governor signed a law called the Stop WOKE Act, which restricts certain conversations and analyzes based on race in schools and businesses. The law prohibits the instruction that members of one race are inherently racist or that they should feel guilty for past acts committed by other members of the same race, among other things.
This month, the DeSantis administration blocked a new Advanced Placement course — an undergraduate-level program for high school students — that would have focused on African-American studies, saying the teaching in Florida public schools violates state law. He also accused the exchange rate of being historically inaccurate.
So far, at least 25 states have considered laws or other steps to restrict teaching about race and racism, according to an analysis by Education Week. Eight states, all under Republican leadership, have banned or restricted the teaching of critical race theory or similar concepts through legislation or administrative action. The bans are mostly about what can be taught in the classroom.
The new higher education proposal is based on our 2022 reforms:
– Basic courses rooted in the Western tradition
– Elimination of DEI/CRT bureaucracy
– Strengthen citizenship-oriented institutes at the University, the Former Court and FIU
– Additional responsibility for permanent faculty pic.twitter.com/XV6mExlzHJ
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 31, 2023
Proponents of diversity programs and critical race theory have argued that their goal is to counter institutional racism and teach an accurate version of American history that shows the racism faced by African Americans and other ethnic minorities.
Several Democrats condemned DeSantis’ plans to meddle in public education. “Nothing says you oppose ideology on college campuses … like pushing your ideology on college campuses,” House member Anna Eskamani wrote on Twitter Tuesday.
The governor’s move to block an advanced course in African American studies also sparked outrage last week.
“Ron DeSantis banning AP African-American Studies because they have ‘no educational value’ exposes white supremacy,” Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said in a social media post last week.
“You cannot teach the truth about American history without African American history. Period.”