Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed three education bills Tuesday, two of which expand civics instruction in public schools and universities, while the third will assess “viewpoint diversity” on college campuses.
The governor said that the three bills will strengthen civics education from kindergarten through higher education during a Fort Myers middle school press conference.
House Bill (HB) 233 and Senate Bill 1108 require students enrolled at state universities to take a course and assessment in civic literacy as a graduation requirement. Current students can choose to take either the course or the exam.
House Bill 5, known as the “Portraits of Patriotism Act,” will create a civics curriculum from kindergarten through higher education. The bill will also include a “comparative discussion of political ideologies that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States, such as communism and totalitarianism.”
‘Pushing Back Against Whitewashing’
HB 5 tasks Florida’s Department of Education with developing a civics curriculum that will include first-person accounts of those who have fled countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua to teach students about the “crimes of communism.”
“Why would somebody flee across shark infested waters, say leaving from Cuba, to come to southern Florida? Why would somebody leave a place like Vietnam? Why would people leave these countries and risk their lives to be able to come here? It’s important that students understand that,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also expressed contempt for how some colleges discuss communist ideology and leaders, including Mao Zedong and Che Guevara, who are celebrated in pop culture, he said. The Republican governor hopes the new law will “push back against some of the whitewashing that’s been done.”
Florida has also recently banned the teaching of critical race theory in classrooms, which DeSantis said is problematic in the way it addresses the history of racism in American society. Among other things, the ban will affect the teaching of the controversial The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which faced criticism from former President Donald Trump for putting slavery at the center of the story of how the country was founded.
“We do not want false history, ” DeSantis said.