If the Courts Won't Stop DeSantis Attacks on Higher Ed, What Will?Roundup
tags: Florida, higher education, Ron DeSantis, New College of Florida
John Warner is a writer/editor/speaker/consultant with more than twenty years of experience teaching college-level writing. His newest books are Why They Can't Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities, and The Writer's Practice: Building Confidence in Your Nonfiction Writing.
Ron DeSantis wants people to believe that the nation’s public universities have gotten away from their core mission of education and become bastions of wokeness run amok, but in Florida, “where woke goes to die” he’s just not going to let that happen.
Now, those of us who are more familiar with what actually happens at colleges and universities know that this is not at all true, and that DeSantis is peddling transparent B.S. as part of a broader push to consolidate his power over public institutions in his state, not just higher ed, but K-12 education as well.
So far, the courts have found some problems with DeSantis’s initiatives, but he doesn’t seem to care. In K-12 education, with the Stop Woke Act, he’s created a sufficient atmosphere of intimidation to have teachers covering up their classroom libraries lest they risk a felony charge.
Such actions would surely be unconstitutional, but this simply becomes another political talking point, the establishment preventing the people, in the person of DeSantis, from exercising their will, as recently outlined in a democratic election that DeSantis won overwhelmingly.
DeSantis is now laying siege to Florida’s New College, a small, public liberal arts school known for its uniquely open culture, in the form of the appointment of a critical mass of trustees – including self-admitted professional propagandist Christopher Rufo, and a founder of a Christian academy named Eddie Speir who writes a shockingly uninformed newsletter – who are prepared to remake the school in an image more palatable to DeSantis and his followers.
As Sam Hoadley-Brill reminded me on Twitter Rufo is on the record denying there’s such a concept of academic freedom, and as Jeffrey A. Sachs (who has been tracking many of these controversies) notes in the government’s response to the ACLU suit to stop the Stop Woke Act, they argued specifically that “A public university’s curriculum is set by the university in accordance with the strictures and guidance of the State’s elected officials. It is government speech.”
Sachs correctly calls this an “all-out assault” on academic freedom, not just an attempt to give the state control over curriculum broadly, but the content of instruction in specific, which would quite obviously render any notion of academic freedom entirely moot.
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