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Florida eliminates sociology as a core course at its universities

Written by The Anand Market

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Students can no longer take sociology courses to satisfy their core course requirements, the Florida State University System ruled Wednesday. Instead, its board approved “a fact-based history course” as a replacement.

The decision by the 17-member board of governors follows fierce opposition from sociology professors in the university system, which includes the University of Florida and Florida State.

And it’s the latest move by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration to challenge the education establishment and what the governor has described as its liberal orthodoxy. Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, had tried to leverage his academic record during his failed campaign for president.

In a brief announcement Wednesday, Chancellor Ray Rodrigues said he was proud of the board’s decision and looked forward to the history course and “the positive impact that the addition of this course will have on our students and their future success.

The replacement history course includes “the founding of America, the horrors of slavery, the resulting Civil War, and the Reconstruction era.”

Florida has one of the largest public university systems in the country, with more than 430,000 students.

The move alarmed sociology professors, who believed it could lead to a decrease in the number of students taking courses and majoring in the subject. The American Sociological Association said in a statement Wednesday that it was outraged by the decision and that it was made without any “evidentiary basis.”

“The decision does not appear to come from an informed perspective, but rather from a gross misunderstanding of sociology as an illegitimate discipline driven by ‘radical’ and ‘woke’ ideology,” the statement said. “Rather, sociology is the scientific study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior, which are at the heart of civil education and are essential to a wide range of careers. »

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Manny Diaz, the education commissioner, wrote that sociology has been hijacked by left-wing activists. Credit…Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat, via USA Today Network

In December, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. wrote on social networks: “Sociology has been hijacked by left-wing activists and no longer fulfills its objective as a general culture course for students.”

He added that under Governor DeSantis, “Florida’s higher education system will focus on preparing students for high-demand, high-paying jobs, not woke ideology.”

Some professors supported this decision.

Jukka Savolainen, professor of sociology at Wayne State University in Detroit, said in a statement: opinion writing in the Wall Street Journal in December that the discipline was troubled and had become “overtly political.” He called for the inclusion of more contrarian views in the teaching of sociology.

“I have taught undergraduate sociology since 1996,” he writes. “Over the decades, I have seen my discipline move from a scientific study of social reality to academic advocacy for left-wing causes. »

In November, the Governing Council approved removing Principles of Sociology from a list of courses that students can take to satisfy their general education requirements. The approval Wednesday finalized that decision after a public comment period.

The course covers topics such as race, gender and sexual orientation, which conservatives in Florida and other states have targeted and attempted to restrict.

In 2022, Mr. DeSantis signed a law that restricts how racism and other aspects of history can be taught in schools and workplaces. Proponents of the law called it the Stop WOKE Act. Among other things, it prohibits teachings that might cause students to feel responsible or guilty for the past actions of other members of their race.

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“The governor-appointed administrative bodies overseeing Florida’s institutions of higher education have found a new target in the culture wars they are waging on the state’s campuses,” wrote Anne Barrett, a sociology professor at the Florida State University, in a press release. opinion writing published Wednesday on the National Education Association website.

She wrote that eliminating the course would be “devastating for sociology in Florida,” adding that “enrollment would plummet.” The possibility of recruiting majors will almost disappear. Weakened sociology departments are ripe for elimination and, ultimately, layoffs.