Editorial: DeSantis wants to scrub diversity from Florida’s education. Pay attention.


Spinnaker Editorial.

Releasing memo after memo and proposal after proposal, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is attempting to change Florida’s education system, erase history’s hard truths and suppress the voices of those who don’t conform to his traditional, white American values.

Escalating each week, DeSantis’s “woke” offensive is the culmination of almost a year of bills, memos and political strong-arming designed to shape Florida’s educational curriculum into something that conforms to his whims and worldview. His strategy? Death by a thousand cuts.

In the final week of 2022, the governor and his administration launched a campaign against higher education institutions, this time aiming at diversity efforts. 

Three days before the ball dropped in the Big Apple, all 12 Florida higher education institutions were required to supply the state with a comprehensive list of staff, programs and campus activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory.

Just shy of two weeks later, DeSantis struck again, this time telling universities to supply any and all records of state funds being used to provide what he called “gender dysphoria services,” otherwise known as gender-affirming care. 

Shortly after, the Florida House of Representatives tacked on their request, demanding documents related to DEI from the same 12 institutions. Incredibly similar to the governors’, this request was to “assess the costs and benefits” of those offices and programs. Speaker of the House Paul Renner wrote that the request was to answer questions about the use of “political considerations in the development of curriculum, hiring and promotion of faculty and other inappropriate activities.”

Hidden beneath the big words and government lingo is the sole goal of these pointed attacks: DeSantis, in his “war on woke,” wants to oust diversity from Florida education. 

Florida as a political sandbox

This isn’t the first time DeSantis has used Florida as a trampoline park, looking to catapult his platform onto the national stage.

Last year, legislative proposals like the “Stop WOKE Act” — which set limits on how issues involving race may be taught in schools — clearly showed DeSantis’s intent to squash the exchange of individual ideas in the classroom. Though its impacts were blocked by a federal judge in Florida higher education, the legislation still sent a chilling effect across the state’s educators, professor or not. 

More recently, teachers in Duval County were told to “cover or store” classroom libraries to comply with new state laws, WUSF reported. In mid-January, the Board of Education approved new rules that make it easier for members of the public to contest what books are allowed in schools. WJCT reported that under these new rules, only trained, certified media specialists can pick books for use in K-12 schools. 

Recently, DeSantis and his administration rejected the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies course because it included certain topics they found “inappropriate.” Those topics included Black queer studies, for example. 

“This course on Black history, what’s one of the lessons about? Queer theory,” DeSantis said about the course. “Now who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda.”

After its initial rejection, College Board released a revised version of the course that focused on topics from a historical perspective instead of a contemporary one. 

So, we ask, where does the history of Black queer studies fit, if not in an AP African American Studies course? 

The governor’s recent efforts highlight an unwillingness to understand and learn from those of different backgrounds. Instead of listening, DeSantis — and other right-wing politicians — squash the free speech they claim to hold so dearly. 

We ask, what’s the justification for these attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and “critical race theory”? After all, Florida universities already barely fund those diversity initiatives. The University of North Florida reported that less than 1% of its state-supplied budget goes toward DEI initiatives and other state universities reported similarly. What’s there to be afraid of? 

If anything, the governor’s actions demonstrate his commitment not to combat real or perceived academic biases but to suppress the ideological and intellectual freedom of Florida’s education system.

Diversity has a place in education

The culmination of all these efforts came to pass last week when DeSantis announced legislation that, if passed, would ban universities from using any funds on diversity, equity and inclusion, regardless of their source. 

Defunding diversity initiatives in Florida education is a direct threat to everyone looking to find personal identity and community. Being a part of a marginalized, minority group has never been and will never be a bad thing — it isn’t something that should be suppressed, let alone punished. 

There is a place for diversity in education, whether that’s the diversity of people or their ideas. School is a place to learn, but meaningful learning requires transparency, even when the realities of history may be uncomfortable.  

In higher education, exchanging diverse opinions and having complex conversations is a fundamental building block for teaching students how to form their own opinions about the world. What kind of generation are we creating that will be incapable of having educated, difficult conversations about topics that matter? 

For many students in America, college is a place where knowledge expands and their identity is found. It’s typically the first time many students experience the freedom to be who they are or figure out who they want to be, but now the bullies come from the governor’s office and not the popular table at lunch.  

We’re taught to include the quiet kids and not to judge a book by its cover, but the education system under DeSantis’ reign seemingly forgoes those values if you’re “too” different.

Suppression doesn’t work— it doesn’t magically re-write history or make those voices disappear; it will only make them louder. 

As for the future of our coverage? Nothing will change. We will still work to bring you coverage of the issues that matter. All we ask is that you pay attention. 

The Editorial Board is comprised of Editor-in-Chief Carter Mudgett, News Editor Mallory Pace and Opinions Editor Ethan Leckie.


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