Ahead of an anticipated presidential bid, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made it his mission to demonize discussions of race, gender, and sexuality and delegitimize academic programs involving gender studies or critical race theory. Last year, two bills went into effect in the state, the “Stop WOKE Act” and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, barring the teaching of critical race theory in public schools and prohibiting teachers from mentioning gender, sexuality, and the LGBTQ community. 

In February, the Florida legislature launched its latest attack on the public education system with the introduction of House Bill 999 that would shift power at state colleges and universities into the hands of political appointees. The bill would require that each institution’s board of trustees, who are appointed by the governor, approve all hiring decisions, giving DeSantis significant influence in the decision making process. Under the proposed law, any consideration of diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring faculty would be banned, as well as all majors involving gender studies or critical race theory. DeSantis stated that this bill was intended to “align core curriculum to the values of liberty and the Western tradition.”   

The bill states that general education core courses taught at public universities “may not suppress or distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics, such as Critical Race Theory, or defines American history as contrary to the creation of a new nation based on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” This would ban courses centering around race and ethnic studies, feminist theory, queer theory, social justice, and intersectionality. 

Women’s and gender studies programs, along with African American studies programs, empower students with the knowledge of how social and political structures have shaped understandings of race, gender, and sexuality. These programs explore the power dynamics and norms surrounding femininity and masculinity and equip students with the skills to create a more inclusive and equitable future for our society. Governor DeSantis and other Florida legislators want to end these programs because they teach the next generation to identify systemic oppression and take action to end inequality, which threatens their access to power. 

We can’t let this happen.      

Sources: Reuters 2/24, CNN 2/1

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