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Gov. DeSantis signs bills requiring FL students learn about ‘evils of communism and totalitarian ideologies’

Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to the crowd. (Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union/TNS)
June 23, 2021

Students in Florida will be required to learn about the “evils of communism and totalitarian etiologies,” according to three bills designed to boost civics education signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday.

“The sad reality is that only two in five Americans can correctly name the three branches of government, and more than a third of Americans cannot name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” DeSantis wrote in a statement, adding that improving civics education was critical to “prepare [students] for the rest of their lives.”

“The bill also expands our previous efforts in civics to add a requirement for the high school government class that students receive instruction on the evils of communism and totalitarian ideologies,” the GOP governor said while announcing the new laws. “We have a number of people in Florida, particularly southern Florida, who’ve escaped totalitarian regimes, who’ve escaped communist dictatorships to be able to come to America.”

DeSantis said students should be taught why people “flee across shark-infested waters” from places like Cuba and Vietnam.  

“Why would people leave these countries and risk their life to be able to come here? It’s important that students understand that,” the governor asserted. “Now as part of this bill, Florida will create a ‘Portraits in Patriotism’ library so students can learn about real patriots who came to this country after seeing the horrors of these communist regimes.”

The three bills signed by DeSantis include House Bill 5, Senate Bill 1108 and House Bill 233.

House Bill 5: Civic Education Curriculum requires the state’s Department of Education to create “an integrated K-12 civic education curriculum that includes an understanding of citizens’ shared rights and responsibilities under the Constitution and Bill of Rights.” It requires educators to include comparative discussions on political ideologies that conflict with freedom and democracy, including communism and totalitarianism.

“This bill also provides a library of “Portraits in Patriotism” based on personal stories of diverse individuals who demonstrate civic minded qualities, including those who have moved to this country after being persecuted in nations like Cuba and Venezuela,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Senate Bill 1108: Education mandates that state college and state university students take a “civic literacy course and a civic literacy assessment” in order to graduate and provides high school students with instructions on how to register to vote.  

House Bill 233: Postsecondary Education requires secondary and post-secondary institutions to “conduct annual assessments of the viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom at their institutions to ensure that Florida’s postsecondary students will be shown diverse ideas and opinions, including those that they may disagree with or find uncomfortable.”