OPINION: The “war on woke” has reached a tipping point. It’s time to fight back

Ethan Leckie, Opinions Editor

Four years ago, surrounded by administrators from colleges and universities across the state, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called on them to adopt a “free speech resolution” similar to the University of Chicago’s. 

Dubbed the “Chicago Statement,” it affirms that the university is “committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, [and] guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.” DeSantis was committed to making Florida a bastion of academic and intellectual freedom for the benefit of all.

Oh, how foolish we were to believe him.

DeSantis has used a chisel, a sledgehammer, and a tank these past four years to utterly obliterate Florida’s education system. These attacks have resulted in bans on discussions of gender and sexual orientation in classrooms, professors refusing to teach certain subjects out of fear of losing their jobs and universities having to disclose medical information to the state. 

No, this is not an excerpt from “1984-” this is what Florida has become. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Ron DeSantis)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Ron DeSantis)

The newest attempt by the Ministry of Truth, no, sorry, the Florida State Legislature, to muzzle educational freedom comes in the form of House Bill 999. This totalitarian decree will prohibit courses that teach “identity politics” and require professors to claim that America is “a new nation based on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” 

The bill also bans majors and minors “in Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, or Intersectionality,” or any “derivative major or minor of these belief systems.” 

Oh, there’s more- the bill will also ban the use of all funds, “regardless of source,” of any “programs or activities” that “espouse diversity, equity, and inclusion or Critical Race Theory rhetoric,” and give universities’ boards of trustees and presidents sole control of faculty hiring, and give them the ability to review professors’ tenure statuses at any time.

Forget the tank, this is a nuclear bomb. Dropped right on the head of Florida’s higher education system. This heinous piece of “legislation” will eliminate the concept of a college education as we know it.

The institutions that are supposed to foster the “free exchange of ideas” will be almost completely at the mercy of the state, and whatever topics, subjects, or ideas they deem verboten.

What angers me most is the blatant hypocrisy displayed by the “conservatives” who have introduced, supported, and signed these bills. They go on and on about the dangers of communism and increased governmental power, yet they are the ones seeking to rewrite American history and launch an occupation of the New College of Florida. 

Remember when being a conservative meant you wanted less government involvement in schools? Yeah, me neither.

This is not about saving taxpayers’ money from “useless” degrees. This is not about giving parents a say in their child’s education. And this is certainly not, as DeSantis said on that day in 2019, “showing that we welcome debate and the exchange of ideas.” This is a government takeover of our most sacred institutions. 

His proxy war on “woke ideology” (seriously, what the hell does that even mean?) is his attempt to entrench his power and silence his opponents. In essence, this is DeSantis’s Reichstag Fire. 

If we want to protect our academic institutions from being reduced to preachers of state-sponsored orthodoxy, we must stop Ron DeSantis and his allies. So, he wants a war? Fine- we’ll give him one. 


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