But the subject that garnered the most attention during the Florida State Board of Education meeting were the new civic standards.
Board Member Ryan Petty said that the civic standards “could not come at a better time in our country,” Petty said.
“We are, I fear, on a precipice,” Petty said. “If we do not educate the next generation, if they do not understand the gift that it is to live in the united states at this time in history, we’re at risk of losing it.”
The new Florida civic standards cover information from K-12 grades and some of the standards may not include more controversial material.
For seventh graders and high schoolers, for example, the proposed civics standards say that students should be able to recognize landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases.
One is Brown vs. Board of Education, declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Another is Miranda vs. Arizona, which is the namesake of the Miranda Rights the police read to people in custody explaining the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
The examples of landmark Supreme Court cases do not include the likes of Roe v. Wade, which grants pregnant people the right to choose to have an abortion.
And overall, the civics standards are tied up in a larger conversation about how students should be taught civics and history. Those in support of these new standards praise the state’s effort to ban so-called “divisive” academic frameworks such as Critical Race Theory.
Critical race theory is an approach to American history that began to emerge during the 1970s to explain the persistence of racism in society. In essence, it’s concerned with institutional racism, the idea that white supremacy so pervades our culture that many people take for granted as the natural order the distortions it imposes on human relations.
Those opposing the new civic standards claim that schools should have more awareness and education on how modern American systems uphold racial inequities.
Gov. Ron DeSantis briefly attended the state board meeting to tout the new standards and promote various state-level initiatives.
The new civic standards were largely applauded by those who attended the Wednesday meeting.
One commenter said that the revised civic standards are “evidenced based, historically factual, and will teach our students our shared American values.” She continued to say that children’s interests “should always come before the political agendas of those who seek to undermine this great nation.”
But not everyone who attended the meeting felt that the new civic standards are adequate, with one critic saying the standards “lack any meaningful account or reflection of discrimination, hate, or systemic oppression.’
The new civic standards do not mention the term “slavery.” The standards do have references to time periods such as abolition and the civil rights movement.
DeSantis also touched on new Holocaust education standards, which span from 5th grade through high school.
“We want to make sure our students understand the evils of the Holocaust,” DeSantis said at the board meeting.
High schoolers will have more in-depth analysis of the Holocaust, such as the impact and the aftermath of the Holocaust.
The Board of Education also approved of a set of so-called “character education standards” Wednesday.
The character standards expect every grade level to encourage certain qualities in students from six branches: character, responsibility, success skills, trustworthiness, respect, and citizenship.
The expectations change based on the grade. For example, second graders will need to be able to “discuss when students need to be compliant” to meet the “responsibility” standards, but for middle schoolers, they are expected to be able to “construct a plan to organize and prioritize responsibilities while anticipating challenges.”
For the character standard, fifth graders would need to be able to “identify leadership skills that can encourage and empower others.”
The character standards were appreciated by some members of the public, but one woman named Amanda DeArmas rhetorically asked “why are we being standardized on a student’s character?” during her public comment.
First Lady Casey DeSantis, Gov. DeSantis’s wife, also attended the start of the meeting and spoke on these new standards.
She said that the character standards are “not only to help craft good citizens in society, but these skills lay the groundwork to empower our students to navigate through life’s hardships, learn to become resilient, and learn to always have hope.”
First Lady DeSantis also spoke on the new substance use and abuse standards.
“What we’re doing is giving educators the tools to address the concerns we are seeing today in society,” she said. She cited concerns ranging from meth use to teen vaping.
These standards start in middle school and go on through high school.
Both the middle and high school standards have four overarching themes, each with at least two expectations on what a student should learn under these categories.
- “Health promotion and disease prevention concepts” cover health risks associated with substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine products.
- “Internal and external influences” discuss how culture, media exposure, and laws influence substance use.
- “Access to valid information, products and services” identify resources related to substance use and misuse and discuss resources for how to wane off of an addictive substance.
- “Communication skills and resilient behaviors to reduce health risks” discuss how to respond to social pressures regarding drug use.
Middle school substance use and abuse standards have an additional benchmark.
- ”Advocacy for personal, family and community health” offer ways to encourage others to avoid drug and alcohol use.
This report first appeared on the website of the Florida Phoenix, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to coverage of state government and politics from Tallahassee.