Ron DeSantis Takes Aim At Higher Education

Ron DeSantis is upping his assault on education in Florida. According to the New York Times (Gift Link), he has now engineered a takeover of the small progressive public liberal-arts college New College by firing almost half of it’s board of directors who, in turn, fired the university president with the goal of transforming it into a “beacon of conservatism.”:

Mr. DeSantis’s education commissioner has expressed a desire to remake the school in the image of Hillsdale College, a small Christian school in Michigan that has been active in conservative politics.

Over 25 tumultuous days last month, the Republican governor removed six of the college’s 13 trustees, replacing them with allies holding strongly conservative views. The new board then forced out the college’s president, a career educator, and named Mr. DeSantis’s former education commissioner, a career politician, as her replacement. On Monday, the board signed off on paying its pick a salary of $699,000 a year, more than double what his predecessor earned.


One of the new trustees, Christopher Rufo, said in early January that the school’s academic departments “are going to look very different in the next 120 days.”

It’s not just New College DeSantis wants to change. His goal is to change public higher education throughout the state of Florida.

On Jan. 31, when the college president was ousted, Mr. DeSantis unveiled higher education policies — to further weaken faculty tenure protections, eliminate diversity and equity programs and mandate Western civilization courses — that for many deepened a chill that had already taken hold across Florida’s public colleges and universities. The state has made it harder for faculty members to retain tenure, asked students and faculty to fill out a survey about their political leanings and requested information about resources for transgender students.

DeSantis’ rallying cry for his assault on public education has been concern that schools are “indoctrinating” students, yet he has no problem with indoctrinating students with a conservative agenda, and in fact seems to think that should be their purpose. These are schools that are not only paid for by the student’s tuition, but by the state’s taxpayers, yet instead of giving students a solid, broad-based education, DeSantis’ goal – here as in K-12 schools – is to present them one single paradigm through which to view the world – that of white Christian males.

Its easy to say that if parents don’t want their children indoctrinated into DeSantis’ extreme right-wing agenda, they can just send their children elsewhere. But where would that be? A significant number families cannot afford private school tuition or the out-of-state costs for public schools in diversity-friendly states – and, of course, many of those families are minorities. It likely no coincidence that DeSantis wants to do away with any kind of studies that would allow minorities to learn the history and achievements of people like themselves. He’d rather keep them thinking that all the good in the world comes from the hand of white Christians.

This kind of widespread whitewashing of Florida’s public education is part of DeSantis’ growing fascism, and not only is it pushing minorities back into a lower place in the social hierarchy, it’s attracting more fascists to the state:

As DeSantis increases attacks on the #LGBTQ community and beyond, Neo-Nazi organizers are moving to Florida to grow their movement.

Recently, a small group of neo-Nazi Groypers, followers of Nick Fuentes, have attempted to hold events across #Florida campuses lauding Adolf Hitler and promoting Holocaust denial, all under the banner of Kanye West’s run for president in 2024.

In addition to seeing Florida as a friendly place to recruit new members, as DeSantis’ creeping fascism continues to spread to all areas of the state, Neo-Nazis and Christian Nationalists will see it as a great place to raise famlies where their kids can be safe from learning about slavery, the nation’s treatment of Native Americans, the white fight against minority civil rights and – most importantly, I suspect – the still-evolving repercussions of our national sins.

If DeSantis and his fascist fans aren’t going to be happy with a right-wing extremist takeover of Florida – they want the whole country. Many tried to warn of the dangers Donald Trump posed and we came close to losing our Democracy because people didn’t take the message seriously. This time we really can’t afford to lose. After the disaster Trump proved to be, people may be more willing to hear the warnings this time. Adding your voice can help make sure there are plenty of warnings for them to hear.

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