Only recently have people noticed politically radical gender and race books like Julián Is a Mermaid or We Miss You, George Floyd on the shelves in elementary school libraries. Some blame rogue librarians and ideological pressure groups; others, school board members asleep at the switch. Few trace the problem to schools of education, where teachers and administrators are trained.

The few states that recognize how social-justice ideologues have gained control over the teacher certification process have, in recent years, deregulated the profession by implementing alternative modes of certification. These efforts have proved partly successful. Nearly half of Florida public school teachers were certified through processes that bypassed schools of education, a share that ranks among the highest in the nation. Still, that means over half of Florida teachers still enter the profession through the education schools.

But if education schools cannot be bypassed, they can be regulated. During the 2024 legislative session, legislators in Tallahassee made Florida the first state to leverage its power over teacher certification to roll back the social-justice agenda in schools of education. According to Florida’s House Bill 1291, a pathbreaking law that Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed last month, state-approved teacher-preparation programs may not be “based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States.” Instead, programs must afford candidates the opportunity to “achieve mastery of academic program content” and “learn instructional strategies.” The legislation becomes effective on July 1.

Florida’s legislative effort to regulate schools of education is a response to social-justice radicals’ takeover of teacher-prep programs like those at the University of Florida, as detailed in a report released today from the Claremont Institute. 

After the George Floyd riots in the summer of 2020, the University of Florida’s College of Education undertook a significant curriculum revision for elementary education majors. “The state of our nation and global society,” read a proposal submitted to university officials for approval, “leads us to conclude that emphasizing a social justice focus in our new program is important and much needed.”

The revision eliminated seven required courses and added new ones emphasizing social-justice themes. “Core Teaching Strategies,” “Mathematics Content for Elementary Teachers,” “Art Education for Elementary Schools,” and “Music for the Elementary Child,” among others, were replaced with a new four-course sequence “centered on equity pedagogy.” Suffused with critical race theory, equity pedagogy makes raising consciousness and eliminating racial gaps—not subject matter mastery or effective teaching strategies—the moral imperatives of the teaching profession.

A mandatory course called “Core Classroom Management” was dropped in favor of “Rethinking Discipline and Classroom Management.” Replacing the allegedly white supremacist vision of classroom control, the new course aims to deconstruct “classroom management as it currently exists in schools, developing the skills to work within this system while simultaneously challenging and disrupting common practices that have adversely affected many school children including Black and Brown students,” as the syllabus reads.

At least ten required courses in the University of Florida’s new elementary education major have critical pedagogy embedded in their course descriptions, readings, and assignments. Throughout the major, the assumptions of equity pedagogy are treated as matters of fact. Students are required to integrate equity-pedagogic assumptions into their practice. Course assignments lack rigor; nearly all focus on self-reflection about a teacher’s own biases.

Florida’s push to regulate schools of education is based on a simple exercise of legitimate state powers. States determine which schools of education can and cannot certify teachers. Schools of education that offer teacher preparation programs dominated by theories of systemic racism will henceforth not be able to certify teachers, though they can continue to operate.

De-regulation of teacher certification, while salutary, is not enough to change the direction of public education. Teachers will still mostly come from schools of education, so states cannot afford to ignore how they are trained. Florida is showing the country how effective regulation of teacher training can produce instructors who show kids how to read, write, and do math—not obsess over their gender or skin color.

Photo: Jinda Noipho / iStock / Getty Images Plus


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