Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week emphasized educating Florida’s youth on civics literacy in the classroom by implementing a state law requiring that more priority be placed on teaching students about civics and the “evils of communism.”
During a Wednesday news conference at Three Oaks Middle School in Lee County, the governor signed three bills, HB 5, SB 1108, and HB 233, all aimed at improving students’ understanding of the U.S. government and the “evils of communism and totalitarian ideologies.”
“The sad reality is that only two in five Americans can correctly name the three branches of government,” DeSantis added, highlighting the lack of civics knowledge common among Americans. “And more than a third of Americans cannot name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
Each of Florida’s new laws focus on educating Florida’s children on these subjects from kindergarten through postsecondary public schools.
House Bill 5 requires the Florida Department of Education to create a curriculum that includes teaching an understanding of the rights and responsibilities U.S. citizens enjoy under the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It will also provide a library of “Portraits in Patriotism” based on personal stories of diverse individuals who have moved to America after being persecuted in nations like Cuba and Venezuela.
Senate Bill 1108 requires state college and state university students to take both a civics literacy course and an assessment as a graduation requirement, bridging civics education between high schools and universities.
House Bill 233 requires state colleges and universities to conduct annual assessments on viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom at their institutions. This legislation seeks to ensure that Florida’s students will be exposed to diverse ideas and opinions including those they may disagree with or find uncomfortable.
Present at the signing event alongside elected officials, were men and women who personally escaped persecution from dangerous communist regimes in Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba.
One guest, Ana Margarita Abaunza, told her story about her journey from Nicaragua to Florida when the Sandinista regime took power. From Nicaragua, she and her husband fled to Venezuela, where they lived a good life, until Hugo Chavez took power, forcing them to flee again – this time to the United States.
“[Abaunza’s] story spotlights the necessity of teaching our youth why we have and will continue to fight for freedom,” said DeSantis.
State Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez pledged her support for DeSantis’ education initiative which she says can “serve as a tool” to ensure all Americans are aware of the consequences of communism.
“As a daughter and granddaughter of Cuban refugees, my family knows firsthand the dangers of Communism and the fatal consequences of totalitarian regimes,” Rodriguez stated. “May this bill serve as a tool to assure history doesn’t repeat itself in our great nation.”
“We have a responsibility to teach students how to think for themselves, rather than indoctrinating them on what to think,” said Florida State Senator Ray Rodrigues. “Governor DeSantis understands the difference and I am grateful for his commitment to ensuring viewpoint diversity exists on our campuses.”
DeSantis signed these bills into law amid heightened conflicts on what we should be teaching children in schools.