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Why Ron DeSantis' new anti-'indoctrination' scheme is so absurd

Which is worse: the prospect that DeSantis didn't think through his anti-indoctrination plan, or the prospect that he did and thought it'd be a good idea?


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) doesn't know of any state universities that are "indoctrinating" its students into ideologies the Republican disagrees with. He doesn't know of any students who have, in fact, been indoctrinated. The governor does have vague ideas about Florida professors saying things in classrooms he doesn't like, but DeSantis can't back up those ideas with anything substantive.

And yet, here we are.

In his continued push against the "indoctrination" of students, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed legislation that will require public universities and colleges to survey students, faculty and staff about their beliefs and viewpoints to support "intellectual diversity."

According to the report in the Tampa Bay Times, Florida's new policy doesn't specify what will be done with the survey results, but the governor and the bill's legislative sponsor said state colleges and universities could face budget cuts.

"That's not worth tax dollars and that's not something that we're going to be supporting moving forward," DeSantis said at a press conference, adding that he hopes to prevent Florida's universities from becoming "hotbeds for stale ideology."

The governor, a former far-right congressman, did not specify which ideologies meet his approval and which he has deemed "stale."

What Florida appears to have adopted is a system in which state schools, at Republicans' insistence, will be required to quiz students, faculty, and staff about their political beliefs. If the state determines that it disapproves of these Americans' views, the schools may face possible sanction.

All of this is being done in the name of "intellectual freedom."

Orwell would no doubt be impressed.

In case this isn't obvious, there does appear to be a practical flaw in the plan: there's no way to ensure the students, faculty, and staff at state universities tell the truth in the government-mandated surveys.

In other words, there's nothing to stop these students, faculty, and staff from completing the questionnaires with answers designed to make Florida's Republican-run government happy. Conservative professors? Check. Conservative students? Check. Conservative views reflected in the classroom? Check. An organized pledge of allegiance to Trump at the start of every semester? Check.

Maybe DeSantis didn't think this one through. Or maybe he did and just didn't care because this entire exercise is intended as hollow posturing, designed to make him popular with far-right activists ahead of his re-election campaign and likely bid for national office.