DeSantis’ proposed education reform threatens progress

Adriana Maria, Opinions Editor

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to defund diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and critical race theory in the state’s universities will effectively wipe out safe spaces for students and staff of marginalized backgrounds.

The likely 2024 presidential hopeful laid out a list of higher education “reforms” his administration hopes to achieve during a press conference on Jan. 31.

DeSantis’ reforms include the elimination of programs and courses on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as critical race theory. The new proposal would realign college core course requirements to be “rooted in the values of liberty and the western tradition.”

DEI and critical race theory courses are programs implemented in the education system to create a supportive space for students and staff who might feel unrepresented or unheard elsewhere.

To go forth with his plans, DeSantis needs a green light from the state legislature, which should refrain from granting the governor approval.

In her book titled “Shift Forward Now,” DEI expert Cherrie L. Davis explains that diversity creates equitable workplaces, which, in turn, fosters innovation and creativity. Ensuring the next generation understands this value is vital to their ability to create a better world to live in.

Social and civil rights activists have developed critical race theory into a framework that analyzes racism through systematic outcomes rather than individual choices. It seeks to hold American systems accountable for the routine violence it subjects brown and Black people to.

By exclusively focusing on systemic racism, critical race theory classes encourage students to challenge the institutions that perpetuate oppression and unlearn many of the beliefs these institutions promotes.

“Critical race theory takes an accurate look at American history,” Davis explains. “It studies painful parts of U.S. history, primarily the ways Black people, descendants of slaves as well as Black immigrants, are treated in the U.S.”

For example, students studying critical race theory would examine how today’s single-family zoning regulations derive from when government authorities drew boundaries around neighborhoods that had a high amount of Black people residing in them through a process called “redlining.”

Banks in these neighborhoods would also refuse to lend money to Black people, further disincentivizing their families from finding a home.

Critical race theory touches on subjects such as the underfunding of majority Black and Latino school districts, disproportionate disciplining of Black students, barriers to gifted programs, selective-admission high schools and more.

It is necessary for the next generation to understand the nuance and complexity of these systems of oppression so that they can make better, more informed choices than past generations.

According to The New York Times, the purpose of critical race theory is to “acknowledge the stark racial disparities that have persisted in the United States despite decades of civil rights reforms” and to “raise structural questions about how racist hierarchies are enforced, even among people with good intentions.”

Diversity programs that teach about the experience of marginalized communities give young people a space to explore their identities and identify solutions to societal inequity. Furthermore, diversity programs help universities create a more inclusive space for students and staff of diverse backgrounds.

The elimination of DEI programs would also result in the loss of jobs. According to the Sun Sentinel, the budget cuts would result in the elimination of eight positions at Florida Atlantic University and 21 positions at Florida International University.

Students are also harmed by this decision. Many will be left without a community and the support essential to achieving academic and personal success.

“It’s just like lessening the chance for opportunities for minorities and people of different backgrounds.” Tynisa Senior, a student at Florida International University, told NBC.

Student protests have erupted across Florida in response to DeSantis’ reactionary agenda. By not listening to students, his administration has proven that they do not fulfill their students’ best interests.

DeSantis’ actions have even broader implications. The Republican governor plans to run for president in 2024. If his administration keeps up their push on educational reform, society will regress.