“It’s crucial to ensure that we teach our students how to be responsible citizens,” DeSantis said during a press conference. “They need to have a good working knowledge of American history, American government, and the principles that underline our Constitution and Bill of Rights.”
The three bills — House Bill 5, HB 233, and Senate Bill 1108 — address the public school system’s curricula.
HB 5 requires that the Florida Department of Education create a K-12 civic curriculum that includes an understanding of the rights and responsibilities guaranteed by the Constitution, as well as an understanding of “the evils of communism and totalitarian ideologies.”
HB 233 requires colleges and universities to ask professors annually about their political beliefs to “assess the status of intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity,” and SB 1108 requires state college and university students to take a civic literacy course and complete a civic literacy assessment as a requirement for graduation.
“We have a number of people in Florida, particularly southern Florida, who’ve escaped totalitarian regimes, who’ve escaped communist dictatorships to be able to come to America,” DeSantis said.
“We want all students to understand the difference: Why would somebody flee across shark-infested waters, say, leaving from Cuba to come to southern Florida?” he continued. “Why would somebody leave a place like Vietnam? Why would people leave these countries and risk their life to be able to come here? It’s important students understand that.”
The new civic literacy bills follow a push from DeSantis and other Florida Republicans to ban Critical Race Theory from the school’s public school system.
The new rule, passed by the Florida Board of Education earlier this month, does not explicitly mention CRT, but does combat the narratives associated with it.
“No child should be classified as a ‘victim’ or ‘oppressor’ based on their race or ethnicity,” DeSantis’s office said in a statement. “Race essentialism in any form is destructive, especially in a diverse society where each person should be judged only by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”