Florida Lawmakers Engage in Heated Debate Over Sociology Class Alterations

State higher-education officials in Tallahassee, Florida, have taken steps to modify the “general education core courses” offered at state universities. One notable change involves the Principles of Sociology class, which may no longer count towards fulfilling required social study coursework. This course covers topics such as gender, sexuality, and race, as outlined in a syllabus from one university.

The decision to review core courses came after the Republican-controlled Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis passed a law (SB 266) earlier this year. This law mandated a comprehensive evaluation of core courses in five subject areas in the state college and university systems. Additionally, the law prohibited the allocation of funds towards diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within these institutions.

Faculty committees responsible for each subject area conducted thorough reviews of the core courses and provided recommendations to the university system’s Board of Governors. The purpose of these reviews, as stipulated by the law, was to determine whether courses should be removed, aligned, realigned, or added based on specific criteria.

After careful consideration, the faculty committees proposed several changes to the core courses list. In the natural sciences category, they recommended the addition of Introduction to Geology and Introduction to Oceanography. In the social studies offerings, they recommended adding the history course, Introductory Survey to 1877.

While the faculty committees did not recommend removing any core courses, State Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. proposed the removal of Principles of Sociology from the social sciences category. Diaz suggested that the history course could replace it, allowing students to fulfill the civic literacy requirement.

However, this proposed change has faced opposition from faculty and student representatives on the Board of Governors’ committee. Professor Amanda Phalin from the University of Florida expressed her support for the faculty committee’s recommendations, emphasizing their expertise in the subject matter. Board member Patricia Frost, a former public-school teacher and principal, also opposed the removal of the sociology course. Likewise, student board member Jack Hitchcock from Florida State University questioned the rationale behind this change, stating that it does not promote civic engagement in education.

A syllabus from the University of Florida for the Principles of Sociology course offers insight into the content covered. The course aims to provide students with an overview of sociology as a discipline within the social sciences, enabling them to identify, study, and address social issues and research questions. It also encourages students to gain a deeper understanding of how larger social forces shape their lives and relationships. The syllabus includes exams on topics such as gender, sexuality, social class, education, race, ethnicity, and migration.

The proposed change regarding the removal of the sociology course has significant implications, as these classes have high enrollment numbers and impact a large number of students across the university system. Professor Phalin stressed the magnitude of the decision, stating that the board’s action will have far-reaching effects.

Tim Cerio, the chairman of the Board of Governors’ Academic and Student Affairs Committee, acknowledged the potential impact of the decision. He assured that the board understands the consequences of their actions and that they consider them carefully before casting their votes.

In conclusion, state higher-education officials in Florida are in the process of revising the general education core courses offered at state universities. While several changes have been proposed, the removal of the Principles of Sociology course has generated opposition from faculty and student representatives. The final decision on these proposed changes will be made by the full Board of Governors in a subsequent meeting.

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