OXON HILL, Md.—Woke ideology is a war on truth, so Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is waging a “war on woke” in education and other arenas, the Republican said at The Heritage Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Leadership Summit.
In his keynote address on Friday, DeSantis said education in the Sunshine State will not impose political indoctrination on children but will follow the classical model.
“We believe in the traditional, classical mission of education,” DeSantis said. “We want to be able to pursue truth. We want to be able to promote rigor, and we want to give students the foundation so that they can think for themselves and be citizens of our republic.”
The left-wing agenda has no place in public education, DeSantis said.
“Woke ideology is a form of cultural Marxism that seeks to divide our society on the basis of identity politics,” he warned. “It is an attack on merit and an attack on achievement. It represents a war on truth.”
Florida, under the DeSantis administration, has embraced parental rights in education.
“We need to embrace the rights of parents to have a fundamental role in the education and upbringing of their students or their kids,” he said.
DeSantis’ 2022 Parental Rights in Education bill prohibited schools from teaching young students radical gender ideology. The Floridian—whom Heritage President Kevin Roberts dubbed “America’s governor”—also touted legislation increasing curriculum transparency.
“You have a right as a parent to know what’s being taught in your kids’ school,” DeSantis said. “You have a right to know what type of materials are being used.”
He said the media has objected to his administration’s war on pornographic materials in public schools. DeSantis played a video showing materials being removed from classrooms or libraries at a press conference and the local news stations cut their feeds, saying the books were “too graphic to air on the 6 o’clock news.”
“How is it OK to be in front of a 9-year-old student?” the former Harvard University baseball player asked.
DeSantis said he will not allow public schools to teach critical race theory or diversity, equity, and inclusion, which the governor calls “discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination.”
“We are going to embrace, and we have embraced, a renewed emphasis on American civics,” he said. “We need to teach our students what it means to be an American. We need to teach them about our constitutional foundations so that when they graduate, they’re not listless vessels and citizens, but they actually have a strong understanding of why people have fought and died for our country.”
Schools should never teach children radical gender ideology, DeSantis insisted.
“Kids should just be able to be kids without having somebody’s agenda shoved down their throats,” DeSantis said. “It is wrong to teach a second grader that they may have been born in the wrong body.”
“It’s sad that we’re even having to do that and it’s also sad that we’re having to combat doing puberty blockers and sex-change operations for minors,” the governor said, expounding upon the Florida Department of Health’s efforts to establish standards of care for gender dysphoria, the persistent and painful condition of identifying with the gender opposite one’s biological sex. While many medical organizations support medical interventions, doctors have testified that “puberty blockers,” cross-sex hormones, and genital surgeries are experimental and should not be funded under Medicaid.
“Now, in Florida, when you do that as a physician, you lose your medical license,” he added.
The governor also noted that 29 of the 34 conservative school board candidates DeSantis had endorsed won their elections.
“I recognize, as somebody that’s leading the top of the ticket, I have a responsibility to help bring in other people into office at various levels,” DeSantis said.
The Florida governor, who won his 2022 gubernatorial reelection race by 1.5 million votes, is also addressing indoctrination in higher education. He touted reforms requiring every tenured professor to undergo a review every five years and allowing colleges to fire professors for poor performance.
“Over many, many years and maybe even decades, higher education has been utilized to pursue a political agenda to advance so-called social justice, rather than being more into the pursuit of truth,” he explained.
DeSantis said he has led the largest teacher salary increase in Florida history.
“But we’re pairing that with paycheck protection for teachers so that they don’t have automatic union dues deducted,” he added. “In addition to that, we are making sure that students are not forced to pick pronouns in our schools.”
DeSantis said his administration has led an expansion of school choice through education savings accounts, which allow parents to use taxpayer funding for their child’s public school education at a different school of their choice.
“We now have universal ESAs, the largest expansion of school choice in American history,” he said.
The governor concluded by encouraging listeners to fight for America’s founding principles.
“We must embrace the Founding creed of this country, that our rights are not the courtesy of the government, but are a gift from Almighty God,” DeSantis said.
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