Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier) / Former President Donald Trump (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Former President Donald Trump has unveiled a new education policy plan in an effort to reassert himself as the leader of the right-wing’s education culture war. But it sure sounds like he’s cheating off of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ school project.
Trump’s team posted a video on Twitter announcing his “plan to save American education” on Thursday night, teasing what Trump promised in the video to be a robust plan to fire supposedly woke teachers and cut federal funds for any “school or program pushing critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual or political content onto our children.”
“If we have pink-haired communists teaching our kids we have a major problem,” Trump concludes in the announcement video, before saying he’d make it so parents could vote to fire their schools’ principals if they don’t like them.
Trump, of course, didn’t show his work—the actual plan hasn’t been publicly unveiled, though Politico was given an advance copy.
Trump has long pushed the education culture wars as an effective measure to rile up his base. Back when he was in office he used the power of the presidency to push for “patriotic education”—including appointing a presidential “1776 Commission” that took explicit aim at the 1619 Project and made broad suggestions on how to push right-wing indoctrination in public schools.
But now, Trump is out of power and reduced to Twitter videos, while his top rival for the 2024 GOP nomination is in office and enacting the kind of education policies that make conservatives drool.
DeSantis’ “don’t say gay” law became a cause celebre for social conservatives and has been copied by Republican legislators around the country. His administration has targeted public universities and teachers it deems too liberal for teaching “trendy ideologies.” He got a “Stop WOKE Act” passed into law and is using it to push the state’s schools hard to the right. He recently appointed right-wing education activists, including the guy who led the charge to make critical race theory a thing, to a state school board that’s aimed at turning a liberal public university into a doctrinaire conservative one.
And just days ago his administration blocked the state from adding a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies because it deemed it too woke—triggering exactly the kind of outraged response that’ll help him on the right.
It’s notable that Trump felt the need to rush out this announcement after DeSantis has gotten days of adulating coverage on the right for this latest culture war fight.
Trump may be back in the lead in national primary polls. But this fight shows exactly why his team is taking DeSantis so seriously as a threat to the GOP nomination.
And it shows that after DeSantis spent four years observing Trump use the power of office to further his political agenda, the student has become the teacher.
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