Applause for the "Education Governor"

David Randall

The National Association of Scholars enthusiastically endorses Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement that he will remove diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracies and policies from Florida’s public universities. We also enthusiastically endorse his proposed expansion of three reform-minded civics institutes at Florida’s public universities: the Hamilton Center at the University of Florida, the Adam Smith Center at Florida International University, and the Florida Institute of Politics at Florida State University. America has needed such resolute reform for a long time; Governor DeSantis’ initiatives should be passed by the Florida legislature and imitated in every state of the union.

Yet even this bold move is only one battle in a larger campaign. We counsel the DeSantis administration, and other reformist policymakers, to follow up on this initiative with several other initiatives—to defend this advance from counter-attack, and to make the most effective use of the gains that this move promises to secure.

  • The Civics Alliance’s Model Higher Education Code includes a Campus Intellectual Diversity Act that embeds a bar on diversity statements in a broader defense of intellectual diversity, intellectual nondiscrimination, and institutional neutrality. Our model Act addresses a far wider range of terms for radical indoctrination, including required commitments to concepts such as allyship, social justice, sustainability, systemic racism, and gender identity. We urge the DeSantis administration to expand its reform of the universities beyond just the removal of DEI and Critical Race Theory (CRT) to include the removal of all these cognate illiberal movements, and of their embodying bureaucracies.
  • The philosophy behind our model acts has been to focus on removing concepts rather than labels. Our Partisanship Out of Civics Act, for example, was carefully worded so as to prohibit the concepts behind Critical Race Theory, and not just the label; without such wording, the radical education establishment can simply play a shell game to protect their personnel. We urge the DeSantis administration to draft its legislation using not only the model language of the Manhattan Institute but also such carefully worded model bills as the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal’s End Political Litmus Tests in Education Act. The higher education establishment will shop for judges to overturn this reform bill; it should be drafted so as to give no handle to the most hostile judge.
  • The DeSantis administration is aware of the danger that the politicized accreditation system poses to any educational reform. Yet it is entirely predictable that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)—or, indeed, any of the regional accreditors—will declare that the University of Florida cannot maintain its accreditation if it enacts these reforms. We urge the DeSantis administration to request SACSCOC to confirm immediately that it will not take these reforms as a bar to accreditation. If SACSCOC declines, as we expect it will, the DeSantis administration should move immediately to an appeal to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) to overturn SACSCOC’s decision. More generally, we urge the DeSantis administration to make policy to deal with hostile accreditors a central component of its elimination of DEI from Florida’s public universities.
  • We applaud the DeSantis administration’ determination to remove DEI from general education requirements at Florida’s public universities—a goal that parallels the goals of our model Core Curriculum Act. We urge the DeSantis administration to expand this goal, and to depoliticize the education of Florida’s K-12 teachers by passing a version of our model Education Licensure Nondiscrimination Act.
  • We applaud the DeSantis administrations plans to expand the Hamilton Center at the University of Florida, the Adam Smith Center at Florida International University, and the Florida Institute of Politics at Florida State University. We urge that these expansions focus upon the goal of reforming the preparation of K-12 teachers, especially of social studies teachers. K-12 social studies licensure should require extensive subject matter requirements—and these Centers, and other such centers in each Florida public university, should be given responsibility for providing the required courses. These Centers have no more important task than educating a new generation of K-12 social studies teachers who have been freed from the shackles of CRT and taught an accurate history of America’s ideals and institutions of liberty.

If Governor DeSantis simply succeeds at his announced reforms, he will have struck an extraordinary blow for the causes of education reform and liberty. But he has positioned himself to do even more. We give him this counsel, so that he succeed not only at his announced reforms but also at all the reforms that must accompany his initial work. This larger reform program is need to restore American education so that is once more the schoolhouse of liberty.

Photo: Ron DeSantis by Gage Skidmore // Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

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