Washington, DC—On Thursday, June 2, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed H.B. 5001 into law. The legislation authorizes the University of Florida’s Board of Trustees to establish the Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education on campus. The bill received bipartisan support from the state legislature and includes a $3 million initial appropriation for FY 2022 to support the center’s work.
The legislation defines several important goals for the Hamilton Center at the intersection of liberal and civic education. Its central mission is “to support teaching and research concerning the ideas, traditions, and texts” of Western Civilization and the American political order. The center will educate Florida’s brightest students about the “great debates of Western civilization,” fostering an awareness of the wider intellectual and historical backdrop against which our nation was founded.
Honest, critical engagement with Founding principles and the western intellectual tradition will also advance a practical purpose: to prepare students for “responsible leadership and informed citizenship” in a self-governing republic. In addition to curricular offerings, the Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education will provide community-wide programming and training related to “the values of open inquiry and civil discourse”—values that are desperately needed in a pluralistic democracy and in every institution of higher learning.
ACTA welcomes this initiative as a constructive response to our country’s urgent crisis of civic illiteracy. As former Harvard University president Derek Bok has argued, our great universities have a responsibility to offer more thoughtful and robust civic education. In the same spirit, James Madison wrote that “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge . . . is the only guardian of true liberty.” This bipartisan move by Florida’s lawmakers marks a commitment to a critically important effort.
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