Florida’s move was widely anticipated as the national debate intensifies about how race should be used as a lens in classrooms to examine the country’s tumultuous history.
Republican Governor. Ron DeSantis appeared on video at the top of the board meeting, urging his members, many of whom he appointed, to adopt the new measures that he claimed would serve students with the facts rather than “trying to indoctrinate them with ideology. ”
The Black Lives Matter movement has brought controversial discussions of race to the fore in American discourse, and classrooms have become a battlefield. Supporters argue that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race and that the country was founded on the theft of land and labor.
Opponents of critical race theory say schoolchildren should not be taught that America is fundamentally racist. Governors and legislatures of Republican-led states across the country are considering or have signed bills that would limit how teachers can frame American history.
Both sides accuse the other of politicizing classroom instruction and violating the freedom of expression rights of countless people by limiting permitted views.
Florida law already requires schools to provide instruction on a number of fundamentals, including the Declaration of Independence, the Holocaust, and African-American history, but the topics have often been confused. Current events, including police killings of blacks, have intensified the debates.
Some have called for a “faithful” interpretation of America’s history that honors the founding of the country, as a rebellion against oppressive British rule. But some Americans, particularly blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans, argue that dissenting perspectives are often lacking in textbooks and classroom discussions.
The new rules say that classroom instruction “must be factual and objective, and cannot suppress or distort significant historical events.” He goes on to mention the Holocaust, slavery, and the Civil War, as well as the civil rights movement and the contributions of blacks, Hispanics, and women to the country.
But it also makes specific mention of “theories that distort historical events” that are inconsistent with board policy, including any teaching that denies the Holocaust or upholds critical race theory, which under the new rules states “that racism does not it is simply the product of prejudice, but that racism is ingrained in American society and its legal systems to defend the supremacy of white people. ”
During his brief appearance Thursday, DeSantis called it “outrageous” how some instructors are deviating from what he and others consider the fundamentals of the story.
“Some of these things are, I think, really toxic,” DeSantis told the school board. “I think it’s going to cause a lot of divisions. I think it will make people see themselves more as members of a particular race based on skin color, rather than based on character content and hard work. . and what they are trying to achieve in life. ”
The Florida Education Association had asked the board to reject the proposal.
The association, which represents teachers throughout Florida, asked the board to remove inflammatory language from the proposed rules. One particular sore point was the use of “indoctrinate” in the rule, which the union says presents an overly negative view of classroom instruction. However, that word was kept in the rules adopted by the board.
“Educators’ job is to challenge students with facts and allow them to question and think critically about information, and that is the antithesis of indoctrination,” Cathy Boehme, the association’s public policy advocate, told the board. “No matter our color, origin or zip code, we want our children to have an education that imparts honesty about who we are, integrity and how we treat others, and the courage to do the right thing.”
More than two dozen citizens spoke on the issue, their opinions divided and passionate. The board meeting, held at a state university in Jacksonville, was briefly interrupted when a speaker exceeded his time limit and began singing in support of the teachers.
One woman implored the board to reject the new rules, saying it was important for children to learn how the legacies of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow still “created an uneven playing field for blacks.”
Others spoke about how the interpretation of an individual’s story could reflect personal agendas and biases that could lead to the proselytizing of children.
The new rules also prohibit the use of Project 1619, a classroom program generated by a New York Times project that focuses on teaching about slavery and African American history. The name of the project refers to the year popularly believed to be when slaves were first brought to colonial America.