DeSantis moves to ban critical race theory in state high schools

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans Tuesday to block state colleges from having programs on diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory.

The Republican governor debuted the proposal as part of a larger higher education legislative package expected to be taken up by the GOP-controlled state House when its regular session begins in March.

DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, has strongly criticized critical race theory, which examines systemic racism – as well diversity, equality and inclusion programs, commonly known as DEI.

Critical Race Theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Scholars developed it during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what scholars viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions, which function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.

“I think people want to see real academics and they want to get rid of some of the political window dressing that seems to accompany all of this,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Bradenton, adding that DEI and CRT programs would get “No funding and it will wither on the vine.”

In a statement, the governor’s office said the proposal “raises the standards of learning and civil discourse for public higher education in Florida” by “prohibiting institutions of higher education from using any funding, regardless of source, to support DEI, CRT and other discriminatory initiatives.”

The proposal was expected after the DeSantis administration in late December asked state colleges to submit spending data and other information about programs related to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory.

The governor is also pushing for education administrators to “reframe” courses to provide historically accurate information and not include identity politics. DeSantis’ proposals have yet to be introduced as formal legislation, but the GOP-controlled state House is often eager to carry out his initiatives.

DeSantis and other conservatives have long argued that critical race theory and diversity, equity and inclusion programs are racially divisive and discriminatory — and are often cited in criticisms of what they often call “woke” ideology in education.

Last year, the governor signed legislation called the Stop WOKE Act that limits certain racially based conversations and analyzes in schools and businesses. The law excludes instructions that say members of one race are inherently racist or should feel guilty for past actions by others of the same race, among other things.

This month the DeSantis administration blocked a new Advanced Placement course on African-American studies from being taught in high schools, saying it violates state law and is historically inaccurate.

So far, at least 25 states have considered legislation or other steps to limit how race and racism can be taught, according to an analysis by Education week. Eight states, all Republican-led, have banned or restricted the teaching of critical race theory or similar concepts through laws or administrative actions. The bans largely deal with what can be taught inside the classroom.

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