JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida’s Board of Education is expected to vote Thursday morning on a proposal that, if passed, would place new rules on how American history is taught in public schools.
Supporters say the move will combat the polarizing concept known as “critical race theory.” The proposed rule change would bar teachers from attempting: “….to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.”
Andrew Spar, head of the Florida Education Association, said not only are the proposed changes political but also unnecessary because critical race theory is not taught in Florida schools.
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“Let’s be clear, the word ‘indoctrination’ is a political term used for political purposes,” Spar said. “And that’s what this rule is all about.”
Critical race theory is a concept based upon the premise that systemic racism is prevalent in society. The proposal for the new teaching guidelines has gotten backing from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran as a means of fighting it.
A statement released by DeSantis’ Communications Director Taryn Fenske said, “The bottom line and objective of education is not to introduce ideology and fight political battles — it’s to prepare our students to be great citizens. It’s not telling you what to think, but how to think, and to think critically — with the ultimate goal of ensuring Florida students become well-rounded, civically minded, productive members of society.”
READ: Florida DOE’s proposed rule changes
Also under the proposal, instruction “may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, and may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.”
The FEA is firing back, asking for the word “indoctrinate” to be stricken and for other historical events to be added to the language. This includes slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, to name a few.
READ: FEA’s recommendations for changes made to DOE’s proposal
“Those are important parts of our history,” Spar said. “Those are certainly not parts of our history that we all may think are great, but they are parts of our history and things we should learn from.”
Quisha King is co-chair for the Northeast Florida division of Moms for Liberty.
“I think all American history — the good, bad and ugly, should be taught in history class,” King said. “Though critical race theory does not do that.”
King believes those who support critical race theory do not have a full understanding of what it is. She says the theory has less to do with history and instead, teaches a racial hierarchy of sorts.
“Critical race theory is teaching that if you have a certain color skin, you are automatically deemed an oppressor,” King said. “And if you do not fall into that category, typically it’s white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied, along those lines — if you don’t fall into that, you are then deemed the oppressed. And if you are the oppressor, you have to apologize.”
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For those reasons, King hopes the theory never makes its way to the classroom.
“We’re teaching our kids to look at skin color and all of these other characteristics that don’t define who you are,” King said. “And as a Black woman, that’s the last thing that I would want to do.”
The Florida Department of Education also released a statement which said in part:
“Students need to have a clear understanding of their role in society and be ready to fully engage in their local, state, and national governments. Ideological theories have no place in our classrooms. The Governor has been very clear that teachers need to be teaching students how to think — not what to think. He is committed to ensuring that every student is provided a world-class education that prepares them for future success.”
Before the meeting, a protest spearheaded by the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville will take place. Ben Frazier with the Coalition said in a statement: “This proposal is an effort to whitewash history by preventing teachers from teaching the truth about slavery, racism and other racial matters. It is a political propaganda campaign being directed by the governor. Teachers should be allowed to teach the truth.”
The board meeting starts at 9 a.m. and will be streamed live on News4Jax.com.
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