Ron DeSantis’s Florida House Bill 999, if passed, would enact a legislative takeover of governance and curriculum at Florida’s public colleges and universities. While headlines have focused on clickbait like “ban gender studies majors,” the bill is deeply problematic for many other reasons as well. We won’t focus on those here, but instead present some data about the hypocrisy of governors like DeSantis who advocate for “prohibiting general education core courses from teaching certain topics or presenting information in specified ways” (HB 999, 3) even as they themselves have taken advantage of the liberal arts traditions of open-ended inquiry and exploration. 

DeSantis majored in history at Yale, although that particular piece of information seems to have been removed from his official biography (which states only that he “worked his way through Yale University”). This history major’s incongruous distrust of unrestricted academic inquiry, manifested throughout Florida HB 999, led us to wonder about the undergraduate major choices for the rest of the current cohort of United States governors. Among sitting United States governors, DeSantis is not unique as a History major: Indiana’s Eric Holcomb, South Carolina’s Henry McMaster, Alaska’s Mike Dunleavy, and Wyoming’s Mark Gordon also majored in History in their undergraduate programs. 

Political science is the most common major for our current set of governors, unsurprisingly: eleven political science majors now occupy the corner office. Education and Engineering tied for second, with six each, followed by History with five. Crucially, more governors majored in traditional liberal arts and sciences (29) than in more professionally-oriented majors (24); totals do not add up to 50 due to double majors and to Missouri governor Mike Parson, who does not have a college degree. 

The governors’ undergraduate majors data, then, echoes the 2020 findings for senators published by Oh, The Humanities – the majority of those in positions of great power are educated in traditional liberal arts, even as they advocate to eliminate or restrict access to those disciplines in contemporary postsecondary education. 

The current Yale History department notes that “Students of history learn to think about politics and government, sexuality, the economy, cultural and intellectual life, war and society, and other themes in broadly humanistic—rather than narrowly technocratic—ways.” If Florida HB 999 passes, history students in Florida will not benefit from the “broadly humanistic” explorations that the bill’s architect did.

DeSantis and his ilk, in their contempt for Florida’s students, don’t realize that these dictates regulating educational content will ultimately backfire. United States undergraduates aren’t stupid. They will recognize this propagandistic “education” as a bully’s attempt to present historical interpretation as unassailable historical truth, an attempt to present a “canon” as a fixed set of universally-agreed-upon items, an attempt to limit scrutiny of a worldview that perpetuates rather than interrogates existing hierarchies and inequities. 

DeSantis rightly fears Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, and other “theories that [argue that] systemic racism, sexism, oppression, or privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States” (HB 999, p.6). Florida is among the most ethnically diverse states in the country, but its Governor seems determined that its higher education humanities curriculum will not reflect the lived experiences and narratives of the state’s multicultural demographic.

DeSantis may have been in class for discussion of the Party slogan in Orwell’s 1984:  “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past” (book one, chapter three). He seems to have read it, however, as an instruction rather than a warning.

AL Kay IveyRB.A.Secondary EducationAuburn
AKMike DunleavyRB.A.HistoryMisericordia University
AZKatie HobbesDBSWSocial WorkNorthern AZ
ARSarah H. SandersRB.A.Political ScienceOuachita Baptist Uni
CA Gavin NewsomDB.A.Political ScienceSanta Clara Uni
COJared PolisDB.A.PoliticsPrinceton
CTNed LamontDB.A.SociologyHarvard
DEJohn CarneyDB.A.Public AdministrationDartmouth
FLRon DeSantisR B.A.HistoryYale
GABrian KempRB.S.AgricultureUni of Georgia
HIJosh GreenDB.A.AnthropologySwarthmore College
IDBrad LittleRB.S.Agricultural BuisnessUni of Idaho
ILJB. PritzkerDB.A.Poli Sci/Govt.Duke
INEric HolcombRB.A.US HistoryHanover College
IAKim ReynoldsRB.A.Liberal StudiesIowa State
KSLaura KellyDB.S.PsychologyBradley Uni
KYAndy BeshearDB.A.Poli Sci/AnthropologyVanderbilt Uni
LAJohn B. EdwardsDB.S.EngineeringU.S. Military Academy at West Point
MEJanet MillsDB.A.FrenchUMass Boston
MDWes MooreDB.A.International StudiesJohns Hopkins
MAMaura HealeyDB.A.GovernmentHarvard
MIGretchen WhitmerDB.A.CommunicationsMichigan State
MNTim WalzDB.S.Social Science EduChadron State
MSTate ReevesRB.S.EconomicsMillsaps College
MOMike ParsonRN/A
MTGreg GianforteRB.E.Electric Engineering/ Computer ScienceStevens Ins. Of Tech.
NEJim PillenRB.S.Animal SciencesUni of NE
NVJoe LombardoRB.S.Civil EngineeringUni of NV
NHChris SununuRB.S.Civil/Environmental EngineeringMIT
NJPhil MurphyDB.A.EconomicsHarvard
NMMichelle L. GrishamDB.A.University StudiesUni of NM
NYKathy HochulDB.A.Political ScienceSyracuse
NCRoy CooperDB.A.LawUni of NC at Chapel Hill
NDDoug BurgumRB.U.S.University StudiesND State
OHMike DeWineRB.S.EducationMiami Uni
OKKevin StittRBSBAAccountingOK State
ORTina KotekDB.S.Religious StudiesUni of OR
PAJosh ShapiroDB.A.Political ScienceUni of Rochester
RIDan McKeeD B.A.Education/ Political ScienceAssumption College
SCHenry McMasterRB.A.HistoryUni of SC
SDKristi NoemRB.A.Political ScienceSD State
TNBill LeeRBSMEMechanical EngineeringAuburn
TXGreg AbbottRBBABusiness AdministrationUni of TX at Austin
UTSpencer CoxRB.A.Political ScienceSnow College
VTPhil ScottRB.S.Industrial EducationUni of VT
VAGlenn YoungkinRB.A./B.S.Management Studies/ Mechanical EngineeringRice Uni
WAJay InsleeDB.A.EconomicsUni of WA
WVJim JusticeRBBusiness AdministrationMarshall Uni
WITony EversDB.S.Education AdministrationUni of WI
WYMark GordonRB.A.HistoryMiddlebury College

Google Spreadsheet


Political science/ politics/ government 11

Engineering (all types) 6

Education (all) 6

History/US history 5

Liberal studies / university studies 3

Economics 3

Business/management/ administration  3

Anthropology 2

Agriculture/ agribusiness 2

Social work 1

Sociology 1

Public administration 1

Psychology 1

French 1

International studies 1

Communications 1

Computer science 1

Animal science 1

Law 1

Accounting 1

Religious studies 1

Liberal arts: 29Professionally focused: 24


Dr. Mary Dockray-Miller is a Professor at Lesley University where she teaches classes in the English major core, Medieval Studies, and the History of the English Language. Her most recent book is Public Medievalists, Racism, and Suffrage in the American Women’s College (Palgrave, 2017). 

Catherine Callanan is a Class of 2023 English major at Lesley University.