As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues picking fights with the College Board over “wokeness,” the state’s Department of Education is searching for an alternative to the board’s SAT college entrance exam.
State officials have been meeting with Jeremy Wayne Tate, who founded the company Classic Learning Initiatives in 2015 as an alternative way of measuring student ability, the Miami Herald reported Friday.
Tate’s educational philosophy centers around using the Socratic method to teach the traditional Western literary canon, largely made up of works by white men. A company board member said the test follows the “great classical and Christian tradition.”
The SAT and ACT, another widely used college entrance exam, have been criticized for years for how they incentivize “teaching to the test” or prioritizing test material over all other material that could also benefit a student’s education.
But recently, DeSantis and other conservatives have begun attacking the organization behind it, accusing the College Board of going too far with diversity and inclusion efforts. A new AP course on African American studies offered by the College Board was rejected by DeSantis’ education department earlier this year, and the governor has even suggested the idea of banning AP classes in Florida entirely.
Henry Mack, senior chancellor of Florida’s education department, supported Tate and his Classic Learning Test on social media.
Mack tweeted Thursday that the test “offers the opportunity for all our colleges & universities to rightsize their priorities.”
On Friday, he was more succinct: “CLT, not CRT!” (CRT, or critical race theory, has been a conservative boogeyman for years in the era of the Black Lives Matter movement.)
Mack has said that the American public school system “often compels or cultivates the treacherous belief that students should be taught to either hate others based on race or that the free society we are so fortunate to enjoy is inherently racist, stacked against the marginalized.”
“We’re thrilled they like what we’re doing,” Tate told the Miami Herald of the Florida officials. “We’re talking to people in the administration, again, really, almost every day right now.”
Tate told the Miami Herald that the College Board’s SAT has become “increasingly ideological” due to having “censored the entire Christian-Catholic intellectual tradition” and other “thinkers in the history of Western thought.” On Twitter, he called the College Board “one of the most ideologically extreme organizations in American education.”
His Twitter page contains at least one retweet from Jordan B. Peterson, the men’s rights activist, and self-authored sentiments about the West declining because people have drifted away from Christianity.
Tate also serves on the board of the Maryland Family Institute, a religious advocacy group that opposes abortion.
On Friday, Tate tried to refute charges of leading a right-wing company ― he says it is neither right-wing nor left-wing ― by pointing to how his test includes passages written by Karl Marx and Susan Rice, a national security adviser in the Obama administration. The company also boasts on its website that its sample test “features passages from Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin, Adam Smith, Pope John Paul II, and even Susan Rice.”
With DeSantis eyeing a run for the White House in 2024, his state’s feud with educational institutions appears to be far from over.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the ACT was also administered by the College Board.