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USF replaced sociology as a gen ed requirement. What does that mean for students?

Florida students will now have a course based on “factual history” as a general education requirement course instead of an introductory sociology course, according to the State University System of Florida. ORACLE PHOTO/ MRIDULA SINGH

At their most recent meeting, the Florida Board of Governors voted to remove sociology as a course requirement option and replaced it with a course on American history prior to 1877. 

But, why was this course chosen to replace sociology? 

Steve Noll, an American history professor at UF, said the course “United States to 1877,” or AMH 2010, has always existed in the curriculum for the state’s undergraduate studies. 

It wasn’t considered a general education requirement until the need for a replacement for sociology, according to Noll. 

The course “surveys the development of the U.S. from its colonial origins to the end of Reconstruction,” according to the undergraduate catalog for UF. The USF catalog defines it as “an introductory survey of American history from Columbus and “First Contact” to Reconstruction.”

Noll, who teaches the course, said he thinks it was chosen as a new requirement because it is centered around American politics and contexts, covering the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

“It is a class in which you must, if you’re a good teacher, bring up the origins of American slavery,” he said. “You must bring up the slavery involvement in the American constitution, and you must bring up slavery’s bringing about the Civil War.” 

AMH 2010 will have multiple sections open for registration in the fall of 2024, according to the USF class schedule search.

Related: USF students oppose proposal to remove sociology as general education requirement

There is no mandated content in the course, according to Noll. He said he is not familiar with the contents of Principles of Sociology, the core course option that was removed, but that some of the topics in AMH 2010 are probably “sociological in nature.”

The contents of Principles of Sociology, also known as SYG 2000, are an introduction of sociological theories and core concepts of sociology, and how they relate to gender, sexuality and race, according to the USF course Inventory.

In a letter shared in late November 2023, the chairs of Departments of Sociology at different Florida universities, including USF, requested that SYG 2000 be reinstated in the General Education Core Curriculum.

The chairs of the departments wrote that the course benefits students in gaining a “broad perspective on the social forces that influence their lives and life chances.”

Even though it will still be taught, the different Departments of Sociology said students will not benefit from the removal of the required course of sociology, because the course has a lot to offer to students.

“A major reduction in the number of sections we offer will inevitably result in far fewer students benefiting from a sociological education and an impoverishment of the general education curriculum overall,” the letter read.

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said in a tweet on Dec. 8 that “sociology has been hijacked by left-wing activists and no longer serves its intended purpose as a general knowledge course for students.”

In the same tweet, Diaz said that under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, the state’s higher education system will not focus on “woke ideology,” but in preparing students for “high-demand, high-wage jobs.”

Noll said the assumption is that sociology is too politically biased, which motivates the need for a class that is politically neutral.

No class is politically neutral, according to Noll, and to assume that sociology courses are directly related to diversity, equity and inclusion policies is a “wrongheaded understanding of what sociology is.” 

“The assumption is that the only people who have agendas are left wing, radical, woke professors,” he said. “And you can teach a class that doesn’t have that, but my feeling is every class has a point of view, and the way that the class is taught is dependent upon the particular point of view of a professor.”

Related: OPINION: Don’t fix what’s not broken. Keep sociology as a requirement at Florida universities.

Noll said AMH 2010 did not need to be added to Florida’s core course requirements as a substitute for sociology, but instead in addition to it. 

“I think that sociology is an important thing and taught well, it can offer interesting perceptions about American society, and I think the same thing for AMH 2010,” he said.