Please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with one of the current hotspots regarding education in America.

The state of Florida gets it when it comes to the indoctrination taking place in education and they are fighting back against the elites, higher education, the American Federation of Teachers, and public education machine. 

  1. In March of 2022, the Florida legislature passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, which prohibited “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.
  2. In November of 2022, the Board of Trustees for the University of Florida approved former Senator Ben Sasse to be the next President of the Univerity. 
  3. Now, in March of 2023 the Board of Trustees at New College, formerly a private college, and now a public college has been set in motion a course correction. 
The following is from Al Mohler’s “The Briefing” on Thursday, March 2, 2023.

You can listen to the audio here  or read the transcript below.

New College Set on a New Course: The New York Times Calls It a Higher Education Apocalypse — Is It?

We often discuss on The Briefing the fact that there are certain dimensions of the culture that particularly indicate the clash of worldviews. One of those inevitably is education because as you get about the process of education, you have to make some very clear decisions, who’s going to teach, what’s going to be taught, who will be the student and what is to be the intended outcome of the entire educational process?

Now, it is interesting that if you consider two different contexts of education, number one, the public school system in the United States of America, and you look at the large university system throughout most of American history, those two vastly influential sectors of education in the United States, they operated for most of the 20th century, or at least the early and middle part of the 20th century on the basis of a vast cultural consensus. And that consensus was reflected in the fact that there weren’t that many controversies over how to teach math or who was going to teach math or what math actually represented.

But as you’re looking at the public schools now, and as you’re looking at higher education, you recognize that almost everything is controversial. It’s controversial from the beginning of the class day until the end. It’s controversial about what is taught, who is taught, how it is taught. And that’s because of a more basic breakup in the society, a breakup in which you now have at least two rival visions of what education is to be. And that’s true at the elementary school and kindergarten level, it’s certainly true at the level of higher education.

But all of that is controversial, and if you want to look right now at ground zero in that controversy, one of the most interesting places to look is the State of Florida, which happens to my home state and I myself am a product of the schools in Florida, 1st grade through the 12th grade. And I was educated at a time, which in the beginning of my own personal experience was based in a cultural consensus. But by the time I graduated from high school in the late 1970s, that consensus was not only breaking apart, it had broken apart.

But the reason Florida is in the headlines now is because of a series of controversies having to do largely with education, and at the center of those controversies is the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. And so all across the nation, headline after headline, you have people who are either pleased, that’s a minority in the press or outraged and displeased, that’s the vast majority of the press. And they are responding to the fact that in the State of Florida, there is now an organized pushback against the academic dominant culture, against the powers that be and going all the way from preschool and K through 12 to higher education.

A couple of flashpoints are worthy of our attention. One of them is a college called New College. It’s in Sarasota, Florida. And it goes back into the 20th century when it was established as a private institution that already in the context of the last half of the 20th century was intended to be based upon a progressivist innovative understanding of higher education. Students were to create their own degree programs, to have their own educational plan. They were not to be so concerned about grades. This was a part of the educational radicalism of the 1960s that actually came into institutional form in the United States in the 1970s.

And I myself was firsthand a witness to this when as a 13-year old I was put in a public school, which was a school without walls because walls create classrooms and that divides people. And we also called the persons who were doing the teaching, teachers, but at least on paper, they were not so much teachers as they were facilitators.

And this goes back to the radical educational theories of the ’70s and the ’60s when it was said that teaching needed to be made less authoritative and the center of authority needed to shift to the student. You can imagine how well that turned out. And this came with the old radical adage, “We don’t need a sage on the stage. All we need is a guide on the side.”

Well, Governor DeSantis has taken several steps legislatively and by executive action to try to bring some correction at all levels of education in the State of Florida. You have bills that have restricted how far schools can go in advocating such things as the sexual and gender revolution. You have the bill that the media calls the Don’t Say Gay bill, which by the way, they’re not going to tell you also had a good deal of Democratic support in the State of Florida. After all, legislators have to go back and tell people how they voted on such a measure. It was basically a common sense measure.

And right now, as presented in the Florida legislature with the governor’s support, there is a bill that would further define what can be taught in the public schools, particularly when it comes to American history. And of course just about everyone in the United States aware of such headlines knows that in recent weeks, the State of Florida and in particular Governor DeSantis has run headlong into controversy with the college board and an AP course in African American history. And you had the governor and others in the state who said that the curriculum was unacceptable.

And as we’re just going to see, this is not just a political issue, it’s a vast worldview issue because Christians understand there is nothing more controversial for good reason than what children are going to be taught or for that matter, what students are going to be taught regardless of their age.

When it comes to New College, Governor DeSantis actually began to hire to appoint trustees who would bring about change. Those trustees have actually done that. There’s been a change in presidents at New College, which by the way is no longer a private college, but is now a part of the higher education public system in the State of Florida.

And frankly, the governor and other political leaders in Florida have made very clear they have a different intention for that school than the intention it was following. And by the way, predictably, it wasn’t doing too well with enrollment either.

But as you’re looking at all of this, you recognize big issues are at stake and you have the protests against the governor’s action. You have the supporters of New college and its very liberal direction in the past. You have advocates for a far more conservative direction.

But the point is this, an institution is going to go one way or another. And over the course of the last, say half century and more, higher education has gone almost uniformly to the left, and that has had an incredible amount of impact upon our country.

But it’s also important in a story like this to look at the pushback. And so Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times recently ran an article and the headline includes something that is theological. I don’t know that she knows that, but it is. So what did she write? Well, the headline says, “DeSantis’ Apocalyptic Attack on Higher Education.”

Well, apocalypse is actually the name of the last book of the Bible, the apocalypse, and we call it the Book of Revelation. It is about God’s cataclysmic judgment and the end of all history and the incoming and inauguration in fullness of the Kingdom of Christ. The Book of Revelation as apocalyptic literature is just about as clear as it can be about the fact that there is an impending catastrophe for planet Earth.

And now you have Michelle Goldberg, a very liberal columnist, and by that I mean even by comparison with other New York Times columnists, Michelle Goldberg looks at the changes being made in Florida and cries out, apocalypse now. But in using this apocalyptic language, Goldberg is clear that someone else had used that language before. She cites Jeremy Young, identified as senior manager of free expression in education at PEN America, who described current legislation supported by the governor and legislators in Florida as, “Almost an apocalyptic bill for higher education.”

Now, I just want to step back for a moment and say, when you have a columnist in the New York Times declaring apocalypse now when it comes to higher education, Christians ought to at least take a closer look for a number of reasons. Number one, we care deeply about higher education in the United States. We had better, because a part of our responsibility is to understand how influential big academia is in our entire culture. As that academia is bent, so will the culture, or at least most of the leaders of the culture also be bent.

Footnote here, when you look at how societies work, they all operate to a considerable extent on the basis of elites. And those elites tend to be the leading edge of more progressivist change. And so you even look at someone like Governor DeSantis and you say, “Well, here is someone who is standing up against the elites.” But at least for a matter of record, it ought to be pointed out that Governor DeSantis himself did his undergraduate work and received his degree from Yale University before attending the Harvard Law School.

So we’re talking about someone who is himself a product of that higher educational system. But the reason why I think he is so passionate about addressing those issues is because he realizes how toxic this kind of elite education can be. And that leads to footnote two.

Footnote two is, just recognize that every little community college in the United States wants to be a Yale, it wants to be a Harvard. It is far more concerned with what someone at Harvard thinks about what students should be taught and how a university or college should be organized than with the people in its own community, that is the school’s own community. That’s just the way it works.

But I wanted to draw attention to this because Christians just need to be reminded that what happens in education at every level really does matter, and it matters so much that the people who have nearly universal control over education now, they are crying loudly, they are protesting vehemently. They’re using words like apocalyptic that right now are applied to controversies centered on one college in the State of Florida.

Now of course, there are big changes coming also at the university level in Florida, but the point is any change at all is now if it is in a conservative direction and one that actually better reflects the citizens of the state, it’s described not as a regressive step, not as something that ought to be opposed, but as nothing less than apocalypse. And let’s just remember what that means, the end of the world.

Some editor at the New York Times thought that that was the word that just needed to be inserted in this headline. But we do also have the controversy that has to do with the AP course on African American history. And in particular, remember that’s advanced placement, that is a process whereby high school students in the main can take certain courses and then test out and receive college credit even as they are high school students.

The DeSantis administration had said that the current shape of the curriculum was too influenced by liberal and progressivist ideologies, and it would be unacceptable in terms of the Florida system. And there was a pushback, but the AP system and the college board that administers came out just a matter of almost days later and said that they were revising the course.

But it turns out the revisions they were making, even the college board has insisted were not a response to the specific complaints from the State of Florida, but through a process that they had undergone themselves. Whether that’s true or false, I don’t know. I’ll simply say that Governor DeSantis and the college board, you might say, together made certain that America is talking about this.

But here’s where we also see the divide in the United States that comes down to even a divide in the culture that can be measured state by state. Sometimes it can be measured governor by governor. So in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis. In Illinois, just to take one example, Governor J. B. Pritzker. You’re talking about two very influential governors. You’re talking about two very different worldviews, two different political parties as a matter of fact.

But in the State of Florida, the DeSantis administration said, “We have big problems with the first edition of the AP class that had to do with African American history.” But just representing the clash of worldviews, Governor Pritzker in Illinois, according to the Wall Street Journal, has urged the college board to take no changes, “saying that his state expects history lessons that cover the role played by Black queer Americans.”

So one of the things that the DeSantis administration had complained about was the fact that there was an entire section on Black queer studies, which according to the original AP curriculum, “explores the concept of the queer of color critique grounded in Black feminism and intersectionality as a Black studies lens that shifts sexuality studies towards racial analysis.”

So the point I want to make is this, you have one governor saying that’s unacceptable, and you have another governor say that taking it out is unacceptable. So you’re talking about two different states and two different governors, but you’re really talking about two different understandings of reality filtered down into two different and contested understandings of the purpose and the desirable shape of higher education and of public education and of all K through 12 education in the United States. And when it comes to this AP course, of course you’re talking about high schoolers.