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DeSantis signs bill requiring university students, faculty to divulge political, social beliefs in quest of diversity

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Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a trio of bills on Wednesday aimed at bringing additional diversity of thought and political opinion to the state’s institutions of higher learning, including a measure requiring students and faculty to divulge their political and social beliefs.

“We obviously want our universities to be focused on critical thinking, academic rigor,” the Florida Republican said at a news conference at Three Oaks Middle School in Fort Myers, where he signed the three bills. “We do not want them as basically hotbeds for stale ideology.”

In signing the “viewpoint diversity” bill, DeSantis was critical of how public colleges and universities appear to suppress conservative and right-of-center debate and political discussion, adding that he has heard from parents who worry their kids will be “indoctrinated.”

“It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you’d be exposed to a lot of different ideas,” DeSantis told reporters. “Unfortunately, now the norm is really these are more intellectually repressive environments.”

The measure calls for a survey to be developed by the Board of Governors of the State University System as well as the State Board of Education, the Naples Daily News reported.

In addition, the new law bars colleges and universities from “shielding students, faculty, or staff from certain speech.”

More about the survey from the bill below:

(b) The State Board of Education shall require each Florida College System institution to conduct an annual assessment of the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at that institution. The State Board of Education shall select or create an objective, nonpartisan, and statistically valid survey to be used by each institution which considers the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented and members of the college community, including students, faculty, and staff, feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom. The State Board of Education shall annually compile and publish the assessments by September 1 of each year, beginning on September 1, 2022.

State Sen. Ray Rodrigues, a Republican who guided the bill through his chamber, agreed with the governor that the legislation aims to stop the “indoctrination” of students.

“The bedrock of higher education has traditionally been freedom of speech, viewpoint diversity, and the ability to have academic freedom,” he said. “Across the country, those bedrocks are crumbling on higher education campuses with this bill.”

DeSantis’ push to combat left-wing ideology that has become pervasive in most academic settings is part of a larger effort to reinvigorate traditional U.S. civics curriculum that teaches historically accurate information regarding the country’s founding and its small-‘r’ republican form of government.

He also believes much of the new curriculum being pushed on primary and secondary students is fraught with Marxist-based, racially divisive thought and ideology, such as Critical Race Theory, which he has also banned.

“We do not want curriculum that is judging students based on their race, and we do not want false history,” he told reporters.

Other bills DeSantis signed direct state education agencies to develop materials that expand civics education in the state to include curriculum explaining the dangers of authoritarian political and economic ideologies like Communism.

“That’s not worth tax dollars and that’s not something that we’re going to be supporting moving forward,” said DeSantis.

He also noted that many Florida residents have come from countries whose leaders have adopted those ideologies and govern by them.

“We have a number of people in Florida, particularly southern Florida, who’ve escaped totalitarian regimes, who’ve escaped communist dictatorships, to be able to come to America,” he said, likely a reference to Cuban immigrants escaping the Castro brothers’ communism. “We want all students to understand the difference.”

“Why would somebody flee across shark-infested water, say leaving from Cuba, to come to southern Florida? 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,” said DeSantis.

Jon Dougherty

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