Florida college presidents restrict critical race theory teaching

Prodded by DeSantis, heads of all 28 campuses promise to hinder attempts to explain racial inequities to students

January 19, 2023
Cody, Wyoming - July 5, 2021 Donald Trump Train Make America Great Again bus parked in a parking lot for a Republican Party Trump Rally
Source: iStock

The presidents of Florida’s 28 state colleges have fallen in line behind Governor Ron DeSantis’ attacks on academic freedom, issuing a written promise to restrict their faculty teaching about the nation’s current and historical mistreatment of its racial minorities.

“Our institutions will not fund or support any institutional practice, policy, or academic requirement that compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts,” the presidents said.

That promised restriction, to take effect next month, mirrors an existing state law known as the Stop WOKE Act that already tried to prevent schools and workplaces teaching about the US history of racial division. The governor and his Republican allies controlling the state legislature pushed through the law, only to have its implementation blocked by a federal judge who derided it as a marker of totalitarianism.

The statement by the college presidents, while not covering Florida’s more prominent university system, stands as the most widespread and overt embrace by statewide academic leaders of Mr DeSantis’ political campaign against academic expertise and racial understanding.

The ban will cover “the idea that systems of oppression should be the primary lens through which teaching and learning are analysed and/or improved upon”, the campus leaders said. “If critical race theory or related concepts are taught as part of an appropriate postsecondary subject’s curriculum,” they said, “our institutions will only deliver instruction that includes critical race theory as one of several theories and in an objective manner.”

Critical race theory is a decades-old academic exploration of racism as a society-wide phenomenon thoroughly embedded in US legal systems and policies. The concept gained widespread attention three years ago with the publication by The New York Times of the 1619 Project, which explained the deep and persistent effect of slavery on US history.

Many conservatives, however, have emotionally rejected the concept as contrary to their promotion of the US as a place where personal achievement largely reflects individual ability and effort. Mr DeSantis, shown by polls to be a leading contender for the US presidency next year, has put particularly heavy effort in that direction.

His actions, beyond the Stop WOKE Act, include installing fellow ideologues on university governing boards and increasing their powers of institutional and curricular control. And more recently, in one of his most direct intrusions into campus operations, Mr DeSantis announced six new appointments to the 13-member governing board of the New College of Florida, a small public liberal arts institution, with the stated hope of transforming the struggling campus into a haven for conservatives nationwide. This month the governor also ordered all state universities to calculate and report any spending related to critical race theory or diversity efforts.

The pledge by the state’s public college presidents to fight discussions of critical race theory was announced by Florida’s education commissioner, Manny Diaz, who called it a step towards “ensuring our state colleges are environments where all students can embrace educational freedom and acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for a thriving career”.


Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles

Reader's comments (1)

Basken confuses different parts of the Florida state higher educational system More importantly, he muddles the most important points: these community college presidents commit to "not promoting" critical race theory which isn't even taught. Not to prevent or preempt it. It matters....