Unbelievably Unwoke: Florida Attempts a Bill Guaranteeing 'Intellectual Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity' at Colleges

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Now here’s something you don’t see every day.

Or…ever?

On Wednesday, half of Florida’s state legislature protected something not convincingly common in school: diversity.

I’m speaking, to be clear, of the ideological kind.

The Senate passed a bill meant to preserve “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity.”

Yes — you read that correctly.

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, House Bill 233 made it through to the tune of 23-15. It’ll now go to the full House for passage.

The bill’s aim is so outdated, it’s downright constitutional: to keep public colleges and universities from limiting the expression of ideas and opinions that may be “uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.”

Per the legislation, secondary educational institutions would also survey students and staff about their beliefs.

Republican Sen. Ray Rodrigues thinks it’s fine:

“Other states that have gone down this road have actually found it educational and beneficial. I think that it would be educational and beneficial in the state of Florida as well.”

Democratic Sen. Lori Berman? Not so much:

“Don’t you think it is dangerous for us to have all the data on personal opinions of university faculty and students?”

The two expressed themselves during last week’s floor session.

Researcher Cathy Bohme — with the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union and an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the national AFL-CIO — appears to be Team Lori:

“I worry that this bill will force a fearful self-consciousness that is not as much about learning and debate as about appearances and playing into an outside audience.”

Cathy’s concerned over what the survey would serve:

“Could this information potentially be used to punish or reward colleges or universities? Might faculty be promoted or fired because of their political beliefs?”

Isn’t that already happening?

The Times lays out the low-down:

Despite being short in details, the bill says the survey should discern “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” in public university and college campuses. It also seeks to find whether students, faculty and staff “feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.”

[Ray] said the governing boards that oversee university and colleges would determine whether something needs to be done in response.

To hear him tell it, it might just turn out that some things need fixing:

“If the results came back and showed that there was a lack of intellectual freedom, or lack of viewpoint diversity, my hope would be that the governing body of the institution would recognize and find that unacceptable, and announced what the plan is to address that.”

Barney Bishop — lobbyist for Citizens for Responsible Spending — believes there’s certainly a slant in need of a level:

“I think that those of us who have diverse thinking and look at both sides of the issue, see that the way the cards are stacked in the education system, is toward the left and toward the liberal ideology and also secularism — and those were not the values that our country was founded on. And those are the values that we need to get our country back to.”

According to the Times, Dems are troubled about…you guessed it:

Democrats worry the bill would make it easier for groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Proud Boys to hold events on campus.

The bill would also allow students to record lectures — without consent — which could be used in civil or criminal cases against schools.

Sounds like real potent stuff.

Ray summed it thusly:

“The only thing that changes as a result of this is that no one would be able to say to an organization, you’re not welcome here because we don’t agree with your views.”

That almost sounds like school.

Or, at least, the Old School.

-ALEX

 

See more pieces from me:

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Find all my RedState work here.

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