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Classical education center at University of Florida moves forward

‘[W]e hope to help students develop the knowledge, habits of thought, analytical skills, and character to be citizens and leaders in a free society,’ university says

A new center at the University of Florida dedicated to civics and classical education continues to move forward against the backdrop of Governor Ron DeSantis’ plans to remake higher education.

The Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education began offering courses this semester according to a university spokeswoman.

The center “will continue to expand offerings depending on the timing of faculty hires and the curricular approval process,” Brittany Wise told The College Fix via email.

“The Hamilton Center will build on existing strengths at the University of Florida but is unique in offering a multidisciplinary civics-focused curriculum,” Wise said. “By offering an integrated suite of courses focusing on the Western intellectual tradition, and particularly the American founding, we hope to help students develop the knowledge, habits of thought, analytical skills, and character to be citizens and leaders in a free society.”

“We hope and believe that our courses will be interesting enough to attract a significant number of students,” Wise told The Fix.

Those courses include classic works such as Aristotle’s “Nichomachean Ethics” and John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” according to a listing of classes.

The Fix reached out to two professors involved in the center, Brooks Sommerville and Mihow McKenny, but neither responded in the past weeks to questions about their courses.

The founding director of the center is law professor John Stinneford. The courses at the center will “introduce students to the core texts and great debates of Western Civilization, enabling students to think through the great questions of life,” Stinneford told The Federalist. Those questions are “Who am I? Why am I here? What is the best way to structure society? What role can I play in promoting the common good.”

He did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Fix, sent in the past several weeks.

The original bill that created the center listed goals such as educating students on the “core texts and great debates of Western civilization,” “the principles, ideals, and institutions of the American political order” and the “foundations of responsible leadership and informed citizenship.”

“The Hamilton Center will serve as a vital hub for civic education programming, teacher training, public-facing lectures and events, and a center of learning and inquiry for the entire community,” DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw told The Fix in 2022.

The center fits in with Republican Governor DeSantis’ goals to push back against woke ideology and promote high-quality learning. His press team deferred to the Florida Department of Education for comment on the progress of the Hamilton Center. The education department did not respond to requests for comment.

The governor said in January that he “wants the newly established Hamilton Center for Classical and Civil Education at UF to become its own college allied with the university by 2024, with its own dorms and classrooms,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat’s summary of his comments.

“You want these things to be different from what the orthodoxy is,” DeSantis said.

MORE: College founded on Great Books slated to open

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Rachel Lalgie is a student at the University of Florida, studying accounting and economics. She is a member of UF's Phi Eta Sigma and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.