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State Board Of Education Bans Critical Race Theory From Florida Classrooms

Pictured here is governor Ron DeSantis.
Wilfredo Lee
/
AP Photo
In this April 30, 2021, file photo surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Now that the pandemic appears to be waning and DeSantis is heading into his reelection campaign next year, he has emerged from the political uncertainty as one of the most prominent Republican governors and an early White House front-runner in 2024 among Donald Trump's acolytes if the former president doesn't run again.

The State Board of Education has adopted controversial changes to how teachers can teach subjects like history and government. The new rule states teachers can't indoctrinate students or persuade them to a point of view that is inconsistent with the state's academic standards. It's meant to keep discussions about critical race theory out of K-12 classrooms.

Critical race theory is a 40-year-old idea that examines race and racism and its influence on government practices and policies. It's now banned from being taught in Florida classrooms. Governor Ron DeSantis has been pushing for the change. He says critical race theory is a harmful narrative.

"I think it will cause people to think of themselves more as a member of a particular race or based on skin color rather than based on the content of their character and based on their hard work and what they're trying to accomplish in life," DeSantis says.

But critics of the change say banning critical race theory whitewashes history lessons. Bobby O'Connor was part of the crowd at the State Board of Education meeting to discuss the new rule. She says documents like the Declaration of Independence need to have context.

"'We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.' Well, there's a lie right there. At that time in our history in our nation, Black people were property, and they weren't even considered to be people. I don't see why we can't teach the truth and let students develop their own ideas," O'Connor says.

Ben Frazier is the founder of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville. He says the new rule seeks to prevent teachers from teaching the truth about racism in America.

"This board should stop attempting to sanitize and to clear up the ugly horrors of history that make white folks feel uncomfortable," Frazier says.

After Frazier spoke, part of the crowd in the State Board of Education meeting began chanting, "allow teachers to teach the truth," forcing board members to take a five-minute recess.

Scott Mazur is President of the Leon Classroom Teacher Association. His organization had hoped that the State Board of Education would have voted down the new rule. By including language surrounding indoctrination, Mazur says the provision makes it seem like teachers are brainwashing their students.

"It implies that there is, you know, going to force somebody to accept a particular belief or set of beliefs and what we really want our students to do is to think critically about the content that they're exploring," Mazur says.

Mazur says teachers follow the state's code of ethics, which requires them to be impartial and uphold the truth.

"To put something in there such as that word, 'indoctrinate,' it seems politically charged at this particular time," Mazur says.

Last month, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran gave a speech at Hillsdale College, a conservative-liberal arts school in Michigan. There, Corcoran said teachers must be policed daily and pointed to an example where a teacher hung a Black Lives Matter flag in her classroom.

"It was an entire classroom memorialized to Black Lives Matter. We made sure she was terminated, and now we're being sued by every one of the liberal left groups for freedom of speech issues," Corcoran says.

Corcoran also criticized critical race theory, which is not currently part of Florida's required curriculum. Language in the new rule says instruction on required topics must be factual and objective and may not suppress or distort significant historical events. It also says teaching critical race theory is an example of distortion.