Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Tuesday that requires K-12 students in Florida to learn about the “evils of communism” in their high school civics classes.

The governor signed the bill following a press conference at Three Oaks Middle School in Fort Myers.

During the press conference, Gov. DeSantis said the bill tasks the Florida Department of Education with developing an integrated civics curriculum.

The governor said the bill also, “expands our previous efforts in civics to add a requirement for the high school government class that students receive instruction on the evils of communism and totalitarian ideologies.”

“We have a number of people in Florida … who have escaped totalitarian regimes, who have escaped communist dictatorship to be able to come to America. We want all students to understand the difference,” the governor added.

“Why would somebody flee across shark infested waters, say leaving from Cuba to come to southern Florida? … Why would people leave these countries and risk their life to be able to come here? It’s important that students understand that.”

According to a press release from the Florida governor’s office, House Bill 5, “requires the Florida Department of Education to create an integrated K-12 civic education curriculum that includes an understanding of citizens’ shared rights and responsibilities under the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It further expands required instruction in high school to include a comparative discussion of political ideologies that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States, such as communism and totalitarianism.”

“This bill also provides a library of ‘Portraits in Patriotism’ based on personal stories of diverse individuals who demonstrate civic minded qualities, including those who have moved to this country after being persecuted in nations like Cuba and Venezuela,” the press release notes.

In a statement, Gov. DeSantis warned about how woefully uninformed many American students are about their country and government.

“The sad reality is that only two in five Americans can correctly name the three branches of government, and more than a third of Americans cannot name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Gov. DeSantis said. “It is abundantly clear that we need to do a much better job of educating our students in civics to prepare them for the rest of their lives.”

A recent poll from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania supports the idea that many Americans don’t know the basics about how our government works.

The poll found that though many Americans’ knowledge of the five rights protected by the First Amendment has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, it also found that many couldn’t name those specified rights. For example:

  • 27% couldn’t name the freedom of speech as protected by the First Amendment.
  • 53% couldn’t name the freedom of religion.
  • 58% couldn’t name the freedom of the press.
  • 66% couldn’t name the right of assembly.
  • 86% couldn’t name the right to petition the government.

A quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson is, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” Though the quote likely did not originate from Jefferson, its sentiment remains largely true.

Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address that our government was created “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

But people who are not educated or aware of how the government operates, or what role they play in directing or restraining it, are ripe to be ruled.

You can follow this author on Parler @ZacharyMettler

Photo from SOPA Images/REUTERS