The GOP assault on academic freedom continues along with the Sovietization of Florida

This week Ron DeSantis signed legislation that could have been cooked up behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Once again DeSantis’ and his Republican Party of Florida have taken liberty to crush the ability of local government to function without restrictions and have continued the two-decade assault on Academia in the Florida.

DeSantis’ “indoctrination” law formalizes what Florida Republicans have for 20 years pursued as a subtle strategy. Undermine Florida’s Universities and academia, make these institutions overtly political and drive young talent out of Florida, therefore making the electorate more GOP-friendly.

After becoming Governor. Jeb Bush worked to “reform” Florida’s award-winning Colleges and Universities, to make boards and administrations more political. In time, Florida’s Universities became repositories for GOP politicians and Democrats who had backed Bush – whether they had the academic credentials or not. The legislature in GOP hands by this time (2001) anxiously passed Bush’s “reforms” as they constituted a potential post-term limited employment plan for many Republican members of the legislature.

The threat to Florida’s system of higher education was so great, then-US Senator Bob Graham (who had helped construct Florida’s award winning system two decades earlier) worked hard to try and undo some of worst portions of the new laws via ballot initiative. The Amendment passed but with the GOP in complete control of state government, it just delayed the inevitable.

For the Republicans, Florida’s Universities became a place to park loyal politicians while undermining the academia – and trying to ensure that higher education in the state would produce more Republican-friendly voters. A long-standing effort has been made to undermine any sort of liberal arts-driven education.

This has run concurrently with the desire to attract low-end jobs to the state, undermining many professions that young professionals engage in while making the arts & entertainment sector less attractive in the state.

The result is many ambitious and liberal young people who didn’t want to leave Florida, have left the state heading for greener pastures in locales to our north.

This state has long had a radical conservative streak when it comes to education. When I was a young person, we had a curriculum known as “Americanism vs Communism, ” taught to us in public high schools (ironically the year I was required to take the course which included this curriculum, the Berlin Wall fell). This came about two decades after the infamous John’s Committee and “Purple Pamphlet” which targeted Florida’s academic community as well as any discussion of LGBTQ issues.

This year the legislature passed with large bipartisan majorities something very reminiscent of the Americanism v Communism curriculum. The irony being this is happening while Florida’s own Governor emulates Soviet-styled authoritarianism and anti-capitalist governance on multiple fronts. Perhaps the Governor is projecting much like President Trump often did.

Governor DeSantis has a desire to complete the Florida Republican long-standing goal to remake the state as a haven for low-wage jobs, anti-intellectualism and beach-oriented tourism that doesn’t factor in environmental circumstances. This week he took another big step toward completing that feat.

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