‘Out With Gender Studies and Queer Theory’ – But Does College’s Educational Reform Emphasize “Transcendent Truth” or Simply Push “Conservative Ideology?”

After the New College of Florida board of trustees’s previous decision to replace the school’s leadership and dismantle its diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, they have once again made headlines by abolishing its gender studies major.

Evolution of College Reform

The New College of Florida’s trustees, with several new members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, have taken significant steps to reshape the college’s direction.

Earlier this year, they ousted the school’s leaders and eliminated its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Among these changes is the discontinuation of the gender studies major, which has sparked considerable discussion.

Chris Rufo, a trustee member and prominent critic of critical race theory, said that these reforms align with the college’s goal of restoring classical liberal education and emphasizing “transcendent truth” – values he believes are at odds with gender studies and queer theory.

A Call for a New Educational Renaissance

Rufo’s advocacy for a “classical liberal arts” education has garnered attention, primarily among conservatives who hope to reshape education at an institutional level.

By emphasizing the idea of a renaissance, a return to traditional values, the call for classical liberal arts education evokes a sense of nostalgia and a renewed focus on learning for its supporters. 

However, Rufo’s vision of this education centers on the pursuit of objective truths – the “true, the good, and the beautiful.” These are values often associated with Neoplatonism, a perspective that interprets Platonic ideas with Christian principles.

While Rufo has not made overt religious references, his ideas resonate with a religious history that has left some critics concerned about his ideas and their potential breach of the separation of church and state.

Gender Studies Under Scrutiny

Rufo’s stance against gender studies stems from his belief in the pursuit of “transcendent truths,” which he associates with classical liberal arts education.

However, this perspective places him at odds with gender studies.

Gender studies is meant to critically examine the societal dynamics and cultural constructs of gender roles across different cultures and time.

Despite Gender Studies focus being the study of language, sociology, and relationships, it often challenges established religious beliefs about gender roles.

This has led to conflicts and debates on the purpose and content of education.

The Strategy of Education Reform

Conservatives and education reformers are hoping to reshape the American education landscape with a new strategy that includes a moral perspective.

In his article on Substack, Rufo said, “for decades, conservatives made their arguments primarily through a statistical frame, using the language of finance, economics, and performance metrics.

But in recent years, the rise of left-wing racialist ideology…has created an opportunity, even the necessity, for conservatives to make their arguments through a moral frame.” 

The Critics Fear

Because of this new strategy and the New College of Florida’s recent reforms, some critics fear conservative education reformers’ real objective is to instill their ideology through education, which ultimately aligns with their conservative values and reinforces their power.

In a recent opinion piece on the College reforms, Journalist Marcie Bianco said” “Why this strategy? Conservatives need Americans to be unquestionably loyal to their ideology to maintain the societal status quo and traditional values that reinforce and maintain their political, economic and social power.”

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