The Republican governor told reporters during a press briefing that he was looking to reform state’s school curricula to “expressly exclude … critical race theory” because it “teaches kids to hate their country.”
DeSantis stressed that he is seeking legislative authorization to implement the statewide measure, named the Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative, even though it isn’t necessary to do so.
“There’s no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory. Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money,” he said.
He noted that federal money from the latest COVID-19 relief bill would be used to push civics education “with foundational concepts” as opposed to “unsanctioned narratives like critical race theory.”
“We’re releasing a $106 million proposal to make Florida the national leader in civics education,” DeSantis said. “That was provided to the state last year through the CARES Act and subsequent additional federal appropriation, so the money’s there.
“We will invest in actual solid, true curriculum, and we will be a leader in the development and implementation of a world-class civics education,” he added.
The governor’s announcement comes amid a heated debate over critical race theory and its role in America’s social, cultural, and economic institutions.
Last month, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York condemned critical race theory, describing it as an outgrowth of the European Marxist school of critical theory that interprets American social and political life through the lens of a power struggle between the race of the oppressor and that of the oppressed.
“From its very roots, CRT is racist, repressive, discriminatory, and divisive,” the organization wrote, noting that the CRT framework is heavily influenced by prominent communist, materialist, and humanist thinkers such as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Antonio Gramsci.
President Joe Biden, in one of his first executive actions in the White House, rescinded Trump’s ban of critical race theory in federal workplaces. Trump’s September 2020 executive order declared that “un-American” and “divisive concepts” should no longer be promoted in any diversity and inclusion training for federal employees.
In place of the Trump order, Biden issued an executive order of his own, stating that it’s now the policy of the federal government to pursue “a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all,” and that federal agencies should revise any steps taken in accord with Trump’s order within 60 days.
DeSantis said teachers who are credentialed in teaching civics education would receive a $3,000 bonus, and earn the “Civic Seal of Excellence.” Teachers would be trained by civics “coaches,” through in-person seminars and remote learning.
“It’s not going to be ideological or faddish curriculum that you see some of these other states,” DeSantis said. “They’re trying to make people view each other based on race. I want to do the opposite. I want to treat people as individuals. I want to treat people based on character.
“But when you put this curriculum in, it ends up creating more divisions,” he said of critical race theory. “And so, I think we understand some of the things that are not working in other parts of the country and we don’t want that to come to Florida.”
“This Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative will build on the success of the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative that we launched last year and I look forward to working with the Florida Legislature to make it a fixture in schools across our state,” DeSantis said on Twitter.
Elsewhere, Republican lawmakers in Arkansas, Georgia, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and West Virginia have said that they aim to ban the teaching of critical race theory in schools, workplaces, and government agencies.
GQ Pan contributed to this report.