University of Florida president Ben Sasse says professors shouldn’t feel stifled by the state’s new law stipulating they can’t ‘distort’ history in their teachings

Ben Sasse.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File

Ben Sasse told The New York Times that professors shouldn’t feel stifled by a new Florida law.
“You want to actually be teaching debates that allow people to get inside texts and wrestle,” he said.
Sasse, a former Nebraska senator, took over the reigns of the University of Florida earlier this year.

Ben Sasse, the former Nebraska Republican senator who assumed the presidency of the University of Florida in February, arrived on campus amid continued controversy over Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education policies.

Republicans in the state have pushed through a slew of legislation aimed at restricting the teaching of subjects, including sexual orientation and racial inequality, and at the university level, there has been angst about how the GOP-crafted laws would impact how professors teach their students.

In July, SB 266, which mandates that professors cannot “distort” historical events, became Florida law. The legislation, as written, stated that general education core classes “may not distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics” or teach that “systemic racism, sexism, oppression and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political and economic inequities.”

But Sasse, who holds a doctorate in history from Yale University, told The New York Times in a recent interview that professors shouldn’t feel stifled by SB 266, arguing that the past “totally does have an impact on the present.”

“There’s nothing that’s going to keep a University of Florida professor from teaching that,” he told the newspaper. “But you want to actually be teaching debates that allow people to get inside texts and wrestle. Because we don’t know the right answer on everything.”

“I want more curiosity and less dogma. I want less indoctrination,” he added.

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