Within higher education, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education reforms have evolved to combat what he views as “woke indoctrination.” has rightly raised great concern about the future of academic freedom in the state. This concern is shared nationally because anti-critical race theory has ingrained moral panic within social conservatism across the country.
But while the “wake indoctrination” debate has been covered at length, attention to the topic ignores a critical question: What happens when DeSantis — a 2024 Republican presidential favorite — accuses a historically black college or university of wake indoctrination because he doesn’t like how it teaches black history or perspectives on society and the law?
The elephant in the classroom that looms over DeSantis’ higher education initiatives can be summed up in four letters: HBCU.
In this case, the damage would be significant. In fact, the elephant in the classroom that looms over DeSantis’ higher education initiatives can be summed up in four letters: HBCU.
There is nationwide 101 HBCUs; 52 are public bodies and 49 are private non-profit bodies. There are four HBCUs in Florida, including Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (commonly known as FAMU) in the state capital, Tallahassee. HBCUs have historically been, and still are, stores of knowledge denied by the predominantly white colleges and universities that dominate academia. Its alumni include such notables as Martin Luther King Jr., Pauli Murray, Thurgood Marshall, and Vice President Kamala Harris.
As a curriculum theorist and Black Southerner, I have noticed how HBCUs have been absent from national discussions about how race should be taught on college campuses. I suspect part of the reason for this glaring omission is that non-Southern people automatically think of predominantly white colleges and universities like the University of Florida when they think of “higher education.” In the South, however, higher education is more diverse than many people outside the region realize.
That’s the lens through which we should look at laws like the law that went into effect in Florida last July, requiring public universities to do so conduct surveys measure up “intellectual freedom and diversity of opinion“on campus to measure”the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented‘ and how free students, faculty and staff feel ‘to express their beliefs and viewpoints’.
Although the law was signed a year ago, it made headlines recently because of ambiguity as to whether the polls were even valid mandatory or not and what they are used for.
But whether the polls are voluntary or not, their very existence is problematic in the current political climate. Make no mistake: the “diversity” struggles that are rocking higher education are about whose knowledge is valid and who has the power to set curricula. People outside of education often overlook the political relationship between knowledge and curriculum.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “knowledge” as “the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association”. Each and every community can produce knowledge. Curriculum is knowledge that has been raised to the required learning status by an authority, namely a scientific discipline, a school or the state. Here lies the current conflict over what DeSantis calls “awakened indoctrination.” Like many social conservatives, he just doesn’t like what Black Knowledge in the humanities and social sciences says about America.
In this era, for example, when the importance of adhering to constitutional originalism is central to the Republican Party agenda, The History of the Blacks asserts that many of the Constitution’s authors understood concepts such as “bodily autonomy” from the perspective of enslavers who owned the Bodies, including the right to consent to pregnancy, of enslaved women. It’s an uncomfortable truth for the party.
DeSantis’ desire to promote “diversity of viewpoints” on college campuses is disingenuous because neither he nor others in the anti-CRT movement understand what diversity of viewpoints or diversity of thought means. They couldn’t possibly if they tried to remove historical lessons that would give students much-needed context to understand the social, economic and political environment in which they are growing up.
DeSantis’ desire to promote “diversity of viewpoints” on college campuses is disingenuous because neither he nor others in the anti-CRT movement understand what diversity of viewpoints or diversity of thought means.
And how do you actually define the range of different points of view? This is not an empty question, because for a survey of this type to be useful, it must take into account the variety of reasons students choose to attend particular universities, rather than assuming that they all show up to engage in endless discussions with theirs involve classmates.
Another complicating issue is that coverage People who don’t feel comfortable on campus to voice their opinions tends to omit the necessary follow-up question: “Beliefs and opinions about what?” There’s a big difference between a disagreement about tax or foreign policy and a disagreement about whether black people are genetically less intelligent or transgender people should have full civil rights.
Some might say there was no way DeSantis would attempt to limit discussion of black experiences in HBCUs of all places. I’m saying he hasn’t shown any indication to the public that he wouldn’t.
If he does, surely those who truly value academic freedom and “diversity of viewpoints” would support HBCUs, while those who value indoctrination as learning would support DeSantis.
Black Americans would rightly view this as an attempt to suppress their history and knowledge in the very environment that exists to preserve that history and knowledge. They would call it systemic racism and they would be right. Social conservatives can waver between accusing HBCUs of teaching.victim culture‘ and to condemn the very idea of HBCUs themselves. They would expect DeSantis to show “strength” when it comes to institutions they perceive as enabling.racial essentialism.”
In any academic sense, the poll data would be useless, but the point in it would likely be to justify the actions he intends to take to raise his national political profile.
If DeSantis took the anti-CRT morality panic to an HBCU campus, she could play well in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. It’s the kind of political move that would make him the darling of the anti-wake movement. Then again, it could ultimately prove his downfall on the national stage because he’d have to explain it outside of Florida in places like Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas – all of them potential 2024 swing states with HBCUs.
Perhaps he could recognize the trumpeting of elephants in the classroom, or the sound of the fabric of American race relations, and trace back his rhetoric. Still, he doesn’t seem to hear anything over the applause of his supporters and not overlook his own ambition.
https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/florida-gov-desantis-undoing-national-stage-hbcus-rcna39957 What could be dooming Florida Gov. DeSantis on the national stage? HBCU’s.