Coming soon to Florida: An alternative college entrance exam backed by the state’s right-wing Governor Ron DeSantis.
Florida’s public university system is expected to greenlight the Classic Learning Test, an exam typically used by homeschooled students and accepted by Christian schools. But Florida officials, including DeSantis, have advocated for the CLT to be used as Florida’s more widespread college entrance exam in place of the SAT, which is administered by the College Board, or the ACT.
DeSantis and his administration are at war with the College Board, primarily over his Advanced Placement course on African American history, amid administration efforts to remove references to social justice movements, whitewash acts of racist violence and minimizing the impact of slavery on black people.
And as NBC News reports, DeSantis showed his support for CLT by signing “a bill this year that opened up the state’s Bright Futures college scholarship program to accepting classic learning test scores, in addition to ACT and SAT results, to determine eligibility”.
Promoting the CLT as an alternative to the SAT or ACT could be another way to further marginalize traditionally underrepresented voices, given its focus on Western ideals.
The Miami Herald describes CLT’s curriculum as decades-old and “emphasizes a return to ‘fundamental virtues’ and subjects like math, science, civics, and classics.” It strongly emphasizes the “centrality of Western tradition” – or a historical focus on white, Western European and Judeo-Christian foundations – and “demands moral virtue from its adherents”.
The New York Times describes the program as one that “emphasizes the Western canon and Christian thought.” (The Times has included a sample of the test which you can take here.)
Earlier this year, a top Florida education official clearly defined the classic learning test as part of Florida’s assault on inclusive curriculum.
David Mack, who at the time was Senior Chancellor of the Florida Department of Education, tweeted “CLT, not CRT! — a reference to critical race theory — in February, when reports emerged that officials were considering using the classic learning test for college admissions. Mack’s role as Principal Chancellor gave him immense power over Florida’s institutions of higher learning.
The company behind CLT describes the test as part of the “broader movement for educational freedom of our time,” employing language the right has used to describe priorities such as promoting charter schools, the denunciation of teachers’ unions and the whitewashing of historical intolerance.
The classic learning test may sound something to regulars at the ReidOut blog. This was alluded to in my June report on the bizarre presidential bid of Christian theologian Cornel West, which garnered widespread support from right-wing extremists. West is an academic advisor to the organization behind the CLT and has co-authored several opinion pieces with its founder, Jeremy Tate. A particularly disturbing opinion piece in the conservative Wall Street Journal praised DeSantis for what West and Tate called a “groundbreaking” defense of the classics.
Alongside West, the Classic Learning Test’s board of academic advisers includes conservative education activists Christopher Rufo and Mark Bauerlein, along with a host of others. If they all get their way, a right-wing test glorifying the Western world could become a new standard for acceptance into Florida colleges and universities.
People like Cornel West might think that’s revolutionary. I think that’s rather revolting.