(USA Features) Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a trio of bills on Tuesday aimed at bolstering American civics education, including one measure that requires students enrolled in higher education to learn of the “evils” of Communism and totalitarian regimes.
In an effort to promote “intellectual diversity,” DeSantis said the measures are important to civics education.
One bill requires colleges and universities to survey students, faculty, and staff to determine “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” and to see if they “feel free to express beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom,” The Miami Herald reported.
While signing the bills at Lee County middle school, DeSantis said about the measures on civics education, “it’s important that students understand” how detrimental political ideologies like Communism can be to a republic.
“Why would somebody flee across shark-infested waters, say leaving from Cuba, to come to southern Florida?” he said. “Why would somebody leave a place like Vietnam? Why would people leave these countries and risk their life to be able to come here?”
Another measure requires the development of new K-12 civics curriculum that includes the use of “portraits in patriotism” which convey the stories of people who have been civic-minded.
The materials are to include “first-person accounts of victims of other nations’ governing philosophies who can compare those philosophies with those of the United States,” he said.
Students attending state universities are also now required to take a course on civic literacy and then pass an exam on the subject before they can graduate.
As for the college diversity of opinion bill, it takes effect July 1. And while it’s not yet clear what will be done with the surveys, both DeSantis and the bill’s sponsor, GOP state Sen. Ray Rodrigues, suggested schools could lose funding if they are found to be “indoctrinating” students.
“That’s not worth tax dollars and that’s not something that we’re going to be supporting moving forward,” DeSantis noted.
“It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you’d be exposed to a lot of different ideas,” DeSantis said.
“Unfortunately, now the norm is, these are more intellectually repressive environments. You have orthodoxies that are promoted, and other viewpoints are shunned or even suppressed,” he added.
Democrats countered by saying the bills could enable universities to restrain speech and competing ideologies, but Republicans said the legislation is aimed specifically at encouraging more diversity of thought, not less.
State House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Republican, said currently there is a lack of intellectual diversity on university campuses that “have decided that one ideological standard will win the day, but the thing is we’re losing because we’re not having real conversations.”