Signing the Portraits in Patriotism Act earned Gov. Ron DeSantis a national platform in the current conservative media news cycle that has its attention set on how and what the education system teaches.
During an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham Tuesday, DeSantis received praise for advocating for a “solution” by signing a bill warning students about the dangers of communism and totalitarianism.
That measure (HB 5) requires the Department of Education to revamp government education, including through “Portraits in Patriotism,” a video library of first-person accounts from immigrants who lived under authoritarian regimes. Lawmakers based that vision on videos of Holocaust survivors sharing their stories at the Holocaust Museum.
High school government courses will include a comparative discussion of political ideologies. The measure also includes lessons on the “evils of communism and totalitarianism.”
During the bill signing ceremony, which included two other measures relating to civics and education, the Governor stressed the importance of civic awareness and critical thinking, particularly in colleges and universities. He called those institutions “hotbeds of stale ideology.”
“I think it’s important that we get this in the classroom and provide an honest assessment of what this totalitarian ideology has done for the last 100 plus years,” DeSantis said.
The “Portraits in Patriotism” will include stories told by Floridians who fled communist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and more.
“This will show the effect that these bad policies had on people’s freedoms and livelihoods and their families,” DeSantis said. “Many of them in South Florida, for example, lost family members to communism.”
The measures are an expansion on civics initiatives he outlined in 2019, including requiring graduating seniors to take a civics test. Another bill (SB 1108) signed Tuesday would require civics tests as a college and university graduation requirement.
Ingraham tied the bill to “critical race theory,” which is based on the premise that racism is embedded within American society and institutions. The controversial theory — which isn’t taught in Florida public schools — has become a national flashpoint for Republicans in the lead-up to the 2022 elections.
At DeSantis’ request earlier this month, the Board of Education voted to prohibit schools from teaching critical race theory. And the third bill signed Tuesday would stop universities from shielding students from speech based on political ideology (HB 233).
But the Portraits in Patriotism Act captured Ingraham’s focus.
“It’s not just saying you’re against something, you’re actually advocating for something and it’s a solution,” she said.