Earlier this year, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis became a national hero to conservatives when he orchestrated the banning of Critical Race Theory (CRT) from Florida’s public school classrooms, one of the first Republican governors to do so. Last week, DeSantis notched another major victory, this time going on the offensive in the fight against CRT by signing a bill that not only prohibits the teaching of leftist propaganda in schools, but that also specifically directs teachers to talk to their students about the disastrous legacy of Marxism and Communism.
At a signing event for the legislation last week, held at a Fort Myers-area middle school, DeSantis said that he wanted Florida to be the “number one state for civic literacy.” He also emphasized the importance of teaching students about the United States’ greatest achievements as a means of fostering patriotism and encouraging students to have pride in their history. “Ultimately, these kids will probably all do different pathways in life,” he said. “All of those people are going to be citizens, they’re all going to be part of making sure that our country is able to preserve the freedoms that we possess.”
The legislation, known as HB 5, requires Florida high school government courses to include “a comparative discussion of political ideologies, such as Communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States.” It also requires K-12 instructors to provide “first-person accounts of victims of other nations’ governing philosophies who can compare those philosophies with those of the United States,” a new initiative appropriately titled “portraits in patriotism.”
In practice, Florida Republicans are hopeful that the measure will lead students to an intellectually honest inquiry about the merits of American democracy as opposed to other political and economic ideologies. As AMAC Newsline has extensively documented, many schools have abandoned traditional lessons about patriotism and civic responsibility in favor of “woke” narratives that teach that America is an irredeemably racist country built on racist institutions.
True to form, the mainstream media and liberal academics have been quick to cry that DeSantis is pushing an overly-romanticized version of American history, accusing him of whitewashing America’s past even while the left’s preferred curriculum ignores some of the worst atrocities in human history perpetrated by Marxist regimes.
As the plain text of the Florida bill makes clear, HB 5 requires instructors to provide their students with an account of this brutal history of communist regimes in places like China, Venezuela, and Nicaragua – something that has been glaringly absent from classroom instruction in recent years. If faithfully executed, the legislation would ensure that students can weigh evidence and decide for themselves which system of government is best, returning to the original ideal of civics education.
Florida Republicans are also betting that by exposing falsehoods about the merits of Marxism and socialism, they’ll be striking a blow against the influence of CRT in schools as well. As many conservative thought leaders, including here at AMAC, have pointed out, CRT and other related ideologies are little more than a rebranding of Marxist-Communist ideas from the 19th and 20th centuries to make them more effective in the American context. By exposing the truth about Marxism’s legacy in other countries, students can draw their own conclusions about the likely effects of its derivative ideologies, like CRT, in the United States.
Floridians need look no further than the large Cuban and Venezuelan populations throughout the state as evidence of the evils of communism – something DeSantis acknowledged Tuesday. “Why would somebody flee across shark infested waters, say leaving from Cuba, to come to southern Florida?” he said. “Why would somebody leave a place like Vietnam? Why would people leave these countries and risk their life to be able to come here? It’s important that students understand that.”
DeSantis also signed two other pieces of legislation on the same day related to Florida’s university system. The first, SB 1108, will require state college and university students to take a civics literacy course and assessment as a requirement for graduation. However, high school students can be exempted from the requirement by passing a civics literacy assessment before going to college.
The second, and perhaps more groundbreaking bill, known as HB 233, will require state education officials to create an “objective, nonpartisan and statistically valid survey” in order to gauge “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” on college and university campuses. This is welcome and long-overdue news to many conservative students who have grown increasingly vocal about censorship on college campuses, something DeSantis echoed at the signing event. “It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you’d be exposed to a lot of different ideas,” DeSantis said. “Unfortunately now, the norm is really, these are intellectually repressive environments… students should not be shielded from ideas.”
All in all, the three bills DeSantis signed last week are likely to make Florida’s education system a model for other states. By protecting all viewpoints and fostering a complete understanding of history from a young age, DeSantis and the Republican-controlled legislature are not only countering vile ideologies like CRT, they are laying the foundations for a broader revitalization of education systems across the nation.
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