COMMENTARY: Florida bans public funding for diversity and inclusion programs in all state colleges

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Kevin Seraaj
Kevin Seraaj is publisher of the Orlando Advocate

On January 17, 2024, the Department of Education announced that “taxpayer funds [can no longer be used] to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) on any of Florida’s 28 state college campuses.”

THE SERAAJ FILES, by Kevin Seraaj

Under the guise of providing students with “an accurate and factual account of the nation’s past,” it has reaffirmed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ War on Woke stratagem, by adopting rules that “prohibit the use of state or federal funds for programs that categorize individuals based on race or sex.” The very idea is internally incongruous. It’s kind of hard to talk about the history of blacks in America without categorizing the subjects “based on race.” Likewise, the history of women. Any account of this nation’s past that fails to include the brutal enslavement of blacks, the planned genocide of the Native American. and the crushing oppression of its own women would be neither accurate nor factual. Walking in the antithesis of its very reason for being, the Department of Education is intent upon putting every citizen of Florida to intellectual sleep. So goes diversity and inclusion.

Growing up I was told repeatedly that “two heads are better than one.” But that trope is true only if the two heads bring different ideas to the subject– two people thinking exactly alike means one of them is redundant. The essence of diversity is seeing and hearing differing points of view, which broadens one’s perspective and world-view. According to Psychology Today, “research suggests that diversity of background and diversity of thought strengthen organizations and minimize groupthink.” But minimizing groupthink is not a welcomed agenda in the GOP today. The fewer independent thoughts group members have, the better. Party members who dare think outside of that box risk the ire of the same-thought base. What’s really so wrong with diversity and equity and inclusion that public support should be denied?

Imagine if you will a time in America without diversity, without equity and without inclusion– wait, no imagination required. Just revisit the time when blacks “had no rights that a white man [was] bound to respect;” when women couldn’t own property and were forced to find a man in marriage or in the back room of a whore house; when gay men of all colors risked beatings or being killed if the door to their closets suddenly sprang open; when illegal immigrants (i.e. Mexicans) could be shot on sight at the border. It places a pretty sharp focus on the time Trump was referring to when he called for making American great again.

Here’s the thing: this new Florida legislation (SB 266) bars public funding for DEI today, but potentially paves the way for an even greater erosion of rights in the future. It gives college and university presidents and their Boards of Trustees sole authority over faculty hiring. Faculty committees will no longer be involved in vetting the candidates for teaching positions.  Instead political appointees and non-academics will get to say who the new teachers will be. The problem with that? A number of different heads all thinking the same way– two heads not better than one– and all teaching the same ideological content throughout the Florida educational system.

Over time that would pretty much mean goodbye to every course teaching anything about racism, sexism and oppression.

Too bad for Florida’s college students. At a time when their minds should be expanding from the challenges of higher education, DeSantis and Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. seek to restrict their exposure to other teacher-validated points of view because the discussion of America’s past just might make some Floridians uncomfortable.

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