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Why is sociology on the chopping block in Florida?

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Trimmel Gomes

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(Florida News Connection) Another controversial move in Florida's education system is a proposal to drop sociology, the study of social life and the causes and consequences of human behavior, as part of their general education requirement for public college students. 

When it comes to trying to understand why sociology is suddenly on the chopping block, University of Florida Professor of Sociology, Criminology and Law William Marsiglio said one guess could be the state's current political climate -- and the fact that the course covers sociological theories, core concepts and issues related to societal structures, sexuality, gender and race.

"One would assume that there are political reasons associated with trying to preserve a kind of conservative agenda," said Marsiglio, "to minimize opportunities for people to talk about or for students to learn about race or gender or sexuality, history and social class."

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. proposed the change to replace the sociology course with "Introductory Survey to 1877," which is an American history class for students to meet the state's civic competency requirements. 

The change is still subject to a final vote in January, which some expect is an effort to bring curriculum in line with SB 266 -- a new law that prohibits colleges and universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

Academics see the decision as potentially harmful to sociology departments, student enrollment and the quality of education in the state. 

Marsiglio said the proposal even impacts the learning objectives of students preparing for medical school.

"They would be discouraged from taking a course that would better prepare them for a career in health professions, medicine in particular," said Marsiglio. "So, I think that is a shortsighted view on the part of those who are trying to make this decision."

Critics, including the American Sociological Association, are submitting public comments opposing the removal before the final decision in January.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.