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Our View: DeSantis’ education ideology suits him, not public students

Fla. governor forced changes at college to become “Hillsdale of the South”

Comedian Jimmy Fallon has a slogan for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ expected presidential run: “DeSantis 2024: Make America Florida Again.”

Fallon is referring to DeSantis’ efforts in Florida to censor curriculums, most recently the Advanced Placement African American Studies course for high-schoolers. DeSantis banned the course, saying it would “indoctrinate” students in political and “woke” ways.

But if anyone is trying to indoctrinate, it’s DeSantis.

What would this mean for the U.S. Department of Education if DeSantis were to become president? He has no tolerance for anyone who doesn’t look like or think like or worship like him.

By the way, who is running the business of Florida with DeSantis’ nose so deep in books and coursework, looking for things that offend him?

DeSantis is on a tear. He’s moved on from the lightweight levels of high-school business to muscling his way into college curriculums, appointing handpicked conservative trustees to the board of the public, diverse and affordable New College of Florida in Sarasota.

At a trustee meeting, New College President Patricia Okker criticized the new direction being pushed as a “hostile takeover.” She was then fired.

Okker said, “I’m going to say publicly, I do not believe that students are being indoctrinated at New College.”

New trustee Chris Rufo tweeted that the changes at New College would re-establish important values in the institution.

“We are restoring public authority over the public universities,” he posted. “Governor DeSantis has provided us with a vision and a mandate for change. We will do everything in our power to make New College the best publicly-governed classical liberal arts institution in America.”

“Classical” as in the curriculum from the private Hillsdale College in Minnesota that guides Ascent Classical Academy, which applied multiple times for charter schools – and was denied – in Durango and Ignacio. ACAD’s application had enough faith-based mentions – sin, vice, a book with biblical references and creation – to signal conflict in the separation of church and state.

Public school is the state in this conversation. To serve all students, this distinction had to be made clear. (It wasn’t.)

But apparently, this is not the case in Florida, where Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said, “It is our hope that New College of Florida will become Florida’s classical college, more along the lines of a Hillsdale of the South.”

Well, they’re not trying to hide what they really want. Note, there is nothing about Black history in a classical education. Experiences of Black people are uniquely American. This is not a political agenda. It’s history. We need room for these narratives in classrooms.

DeSantis wants taxpayers to fund education that only aligns with his views. His rejection of the AP African American Studies course – an elective, mind you – is a preemptive strike on what he’d really like to do in schools nationwide.

Meanwhile, three Florida high-schoolers are learning civics on their own, threatening to sue DeSantis if he doesn’t allow the AP course. Then on Wednesday, the first day of Black History Month, the College Board released a newly revised curriculum for the AP course, dividing people on changes.

Study after study has shown that Black students are likely to be more engaged and perform better in school when their identities and histories are affirmed, and go beyond trauma and injustices.

AP coursework is intensive and mimics college-level work. Many colleges and universities offer first-year course credits to high-schoolers who score well on AP exams.

In Florida or the Southwest or anywhere else in this country, if there’s a strong interest – with matching enrollment – and available teachers, teach the AP course, don’t ban it. Our children need to know how this country came to be.

Teach all of its history.