DeSantis Takes On Educational Institution, Builds Its Own Brand

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, positioning himself for next year’s presidential campaign, has become an increasingly outspoken cultural crusader, vowing to take on the liberal orthodoxy and its adherents, regardless of Whether they’re at Disney, Martha’s Vineyard, or at the state’s public library.

But his crusade was perhaps most powerful in the classroom and on the college campus. He banned the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through third grade, limited what schools and employers can teach about racism and other aspects of history, and largely rejected math textbooks for what the state calls “indoctrination.” . Most recently, he banned the College Board’s Advanced Placement course in African American studies for high school students.

On Tuesday, Republican Gov. DeSantis took his most aggressive move yet at educational institutions, announcing sweeping changes to the state’s higher education system to remove what he called “ideological coherence.” If enacted, the Western Civilization curriculum would be enforced, diversity and equity programs would be eliminated, and tenure protections would be reduced.

His plans for the state’s education system are in sync with other recent moves — banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, flying a plane of Venezuelan immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard and stripping Florida of its once politically unshakable status. The favor of corporate giant Disney. enjoyed for half a century.

His boxing approach paid off with voters, who reelected him by 19 percentage points in November.

Appearing Tuesday at Florida State University Manatee-Sarasota, one of 28 publicly funded state and community colleges in the state, Mr. DeSantis has vowed to turn on an agenda he says is “hostile to academic freedom” in Florida’s higher education system. The shows “impose ideological conformity in an attempt to stoke political activism,” Mr. DeSantis said. “We don’t think it’s right for Florida.”

He has already set about overhauling the leadership of Florida’s New College, a small liberal arts school in Sarasota that has struggled with admissions but bills itself as a place of “free thinkers.” It is considered one of the most advanced of Florida’s 12 public universities.

gentlemen. DeSantis pointed to low enrollment and test scores at The New College as part of the rationale for seeking change there.

“If it’s a private school, making those choices, fine, I mean, what are you going to do,” he said. “But it’s paid for with your taxes.”

The college’s board of trustees voted to replace the chancellor at a tumultuous meeting Tuesday afternoon, agreeing to appoint former state education commissioner Richard Corcoran as interim chancellor starting in March, with six new conservative members Appointed by Governor DeSantis.

(Because Mr. Corcoran will not be in office until March, the board has appointed an interim proxy, Bradley Thiessen, the college’s director of institutional studies.)

gentlemen. Corcoran succeeds longtime English professor and university administrator Patricia Okker, appointed in 2021.

While expressing her love for the Faculty and its students, Dr. Oak called the move a hostile takeover. “I don’t believe students are being indoctrinated at The New College,” she said. “They’re taught, they read Marx, they argue with Marx. They follow world religions, they don’t become Buddhists in February and Christians in March.”

Governor DeSantis also announced Tuesday that he has asked the Legislature to immediately allocate $15 million to recruit new faculty and provide scholarships for the new college.

All told, he’s asking the legislature to allocate $100 million a year for state universities.

“We put our money where our mouth is,” he said.

New College is small, with just under 700 students, but the reshuffle reverberated throughout Florida, and so did Mr. DeSantis proposed overhaul.

Andrew Gothard, president of the state’s teachers’ union, said the governor’s statement on the state’s higher education system may be his most aggressive yet.

“There is an argument that Ron DeSantis believes he and the legislature have the right to tell Florida students what classes they can take and what degree programs they can take,” Dr. Friend said. Gothard is on leave from his teaching job at Florida Atlantic University. “He’s on one side saying he believes in liberty, and then he’s passing and proposing legislation and policies that are exactly the opposite.”

At board meetings, students, parents and professors defended the school and criticized board members for acting unilaterally without their input.

Betsy Braden, who claims to be the parent of a transgender student, says her daughter thrives at school.

“It seems like a lot of students who come here don’t think they’re necessarily a good fit for another school,” Brayden said. “They embraced their differences and showed incredible courage in forging a path forward. They thrived, they blossomed, they went out into the world for the betterment of society. It’s well documented. Why should you Take this from us?”

gentlemen. Cochrane, an ally of DeSantis, had been mentioned as a possible FSU president, but his candidacy was dropped due to questions about whether he had conflicts of interest or whether he had the appropriate academic background.

A letter from Carlos Trujillo, president of Continental Strategy, a consulting firm of which Corcoran is a partner, said it wanted his title at New College to be made permanent.

Not since George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign for “education president” has a Republican seeking the Oval Office made school reform a central agenda item. That may be because Democrats have held double-digit advantages in education polls for years.

But since the pandemic began in 2020, many Democratic-led states have kept schools closed longer than Republican governors, often under pressure from teachers’ unions, and some polls suggest education is now better for Republicans. Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia gubernatorial race in 2021 after a campaign focused on “parental rights” in public schools, seen as a signal of voters’ political sway over education.

gentlemen. DeSantis’ attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion programs echo recent criticism of such programs by conservative groups and think tanks.

Examples of such initiatives include campus conferences on “microaggressions”—subtle contempt, often based on race or gender—and requiring candidates for faculty positions to submit statements describing their commitment to diversity.

“It’s basically like asking people to take a political oath,” Mr. DeSantis said Tuesday. He also slammed the projects for “draining resources and driving up costs”.

Proponents of DEI programs and diversity courses say they help students learn about the wider world and their own biases and beliefs, improving their ability to navigate relationships and the workplace.

gentlemen. DeSantis’ support for civics education, and special civics programs at several of the state’s 12 public universities, dovetails with the development of similar programs across the country, some of which are partially funded by conservative donors.

These courses emphasize the study of Western civilization and economics, as well as the thinking of Western philosophers, often focusing on the Greeks and Romans. Critics of these shows say they sometimes gloss over the pitfalls of Western thinking while ignoring the philosophies of non-Western civilizations.

“The core curriculum has to be grounded in actual history, grounded in the actual philosophy that shaped Western civilization,” he said. DeSantis said. “We don’t want students to pass and get degrees in zombie studies at taxpayer expense.”

The new College reshuffle, which also includes the election of a new board chair, is likely to be ongoing and dramatic, as the new six board members are appointed by Mr. DeSantis.

Among them was Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute known for his ferocious attacks on “critical race theory,” the academic concept in which historical patterns of racism play out in law and ingrained in other modern institutions.

On appointment, Mr. Rufo, who lives and works in Washington State, tweets He is “taking back” higher education.

Another new board member is Eddie Speir, who runs a private Christian school in Florida. He had suggested in a Substack post ahead of the meeting that the contracts of all school staff be canceled.

Other new appointees include Matthew Spalding, dean of the Washington, D.C., campus of Hillsdale College, a private Michigan university known for its conservative and Christian leanings. famous. An aide to the governor said Hillsdale, which bills itself as offering a classical education, is widely considered a model for the governor’s rebuilding of the new academy.

In addition to the governor’s six new appointments, the university system’s board of trustees recently named a seventh member, Ryan T. Anderson, director of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, a conservative think tank that applies the Judeo-Christian tradition Issues in contemporary law, culture and politics. His choice is thought to have been given to Mr. DeSantis has a majority of votes on the 13-member board.

jennifer reed Contribution report. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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