New guidelines for teaching Black history in Florida were passed by the Florida Board of Education on Wednesday, drawing immediate criticism from those who saw the revisions as “a big step backward.”
The state’s controversial education law, which demanded that lessons on race be presented in a “objective” way that doesn’t try to “indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view,” led to the adoption of the new standards. In early 2023, the state also forbade a pilot Advanced Placement high school course in African American studies, citing its “lack of educational value” and violation of state legislation.
The revised standards for teaching African American history include “benchmark clarifications” to give teachers more information on certain subjects to cover in lessons. Particularly controversial is one modified requirement that instructs teachers to cover “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
Teachers are instructed to include instruction on “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans” when teaching about the development and devastation of Black communities during Reconstruction and beyond, according to another “benchmark clarification” that is coming under growing criticism. The 1920 Ocoee Massacre, in which numerous African Americans were killed while casting their ballots, was one of the instances of violence mentioned.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the state’s teachers organisation, the Florida Board of Education Association, called these requirements and others “a big step backward.”
“New African American history standards were adopted today by the Florida Board of Education. The Stop Woke Act, a contentious education bill, was signed into law last year, and in doing so, they “validated many of the worst suspicions educators had at the time. For a state that has mandated teaching African American history since 1994, the new standards do a disservice to Florida’s children and represent a significant step backward.
In the news release, the association’s president, Andrew Spar, questioned how kids could ever be prepared for the future if they didn’t have a complete understanding of our history. Florida students deserve access to a top-notch education that will prepare them to lead fulfilling lives as adults and prevent further racial divisions in our country.
“Gov. [Ron] DeSantis is deceiving our children by following a political agenda certain to pit decent people against one another. They merit to know both the positive and the negative parts of American history, he continued.
As numerous local officials spoke and asked the Florida Board of Education to put the proposed standards on hold until they could be changed, the meeting on Wednesday turned tense. A few of the proposed new regulations also targeted teachers and kids who identify as LGBTQ. There was reportedly no discussion when the criteria were adopted.
Wednesday’s meeting allegedly featured a statement by state senator Geraldine Thompson (D). She participated in the legislation that established the Ocoee Massacre as one of the “acts of violence committed against and by African Americans” that instructors must cover in their lessons.
The new criteria, according to Thompson, “suggest that the massacre was sparked by violence from African Americans.” That is victim-blaming.