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Edsall: Florida's Education Legislation Threatens Academic Freedom. Opinions Differ Whether That's Good

Many who have in the past been sharply critical of progressive excess now see DeSantis as promoting excess on the right.

Amna Khalid, a history professor at Carleton College in Minnesota, has written extensively in The Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications on such subjects as “Yes, D.E.I. Can Erode Academic Freedom. Let’s Not Pretend Otherwise” and “The Data Is In — Trigger Warnings Don’t Work.”

However, when I asked Khalid about legislation in Florida (HB 999) that would codify DeSantis’s higher education proposals into law, she emailed back:

HB 999 is an abomination. It’s the most comprehensive attack on academic freedom we’ve seen. From banning concepts and theories that can be taught to limiting faculty and student speech outside the classroom to the erosion of tenure and faculty involvement in hiring decisions, this bill, if passed, will turn Florida colleges and universities into state propaganda factories and intellectual wastelands.

What’s most dangerous about the bill, Khalid continued,

is its vagueness. Calling for general education courses to ban “critical race theory” and the teaching of “identity politics,” without defining what exactly those terms mean, is a most devastatingly effective way of intimidating instructors. Anyone who wants to keep their jobs will no doubt have to self-censor and toe the line.

In addition, Khalid wrote, the measure “empowers university presidents and boards of trustees” (board members are appointed by the governor)

to make hiring, firing and post-tenure review determinations, making it impossible for faculty to critique any policy or challenge any position that runs counter to that of state officials. HB 999 targets the very core of academic freedom, the very thing that has made U.S. universities the envy of the world. If passed this bill will sound the death knell for higher education in Florida.

Khalid is by no means alone among those who have turned their fire on DeSantis.

Read entire article at New York Times