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Florida teacher training program downplays slavery, racism

by Erika DuBose
Florida teacher training program downplays slavery, racism
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A new civics curriculum training for Florida teachers includes some vastly skewed information on the history of the United States, including far-right ideology. The new school standards are part of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ pushback against “woke” education in schools.

Florida teachers attended the three-day training session on civics education last week in Broward County. Some came out of the program wary about the curriculum’s nature, which encourages students to be “virtuous citizens.”

According to Barbara Segal, a 12th-grade government teacher at Fort Lauderdale High School, “It was very skewed. There was a very strong Christian fundamentalist way toward analyzing different quotes and different documents. That was concerning.” 

Equally concerning was the program’s insistence that the Constitution should be interpreted as it was written, over 200 years ago, and not applied to life in 2022. Additionally, the training pushed the narrative that America’s founders did not want a strict separation of church and state.

The new curriculum is part of a $6 million investment by the DeSantis administration to change the way Florida teachers educate students on American history. DeSantis has spoken out repeatedly against more progressive education standards, which he refers to as “woke ideology.”

“Anti-wokeness” is just one part of DeSantis’ plan on reeducating Florida’s children. The Florida Governor, who is considering a run for President in 2024, recently signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits teachers from discussing gender identity and LGBTQIA+ rights in schools. 

Meanwhile, according to Richard Judd, 50, a Nova High School social studies teacher with 22 years of experience, “It is disturbing, really, that through these workshops and through legislation, there is this attempt to both censor and to drive or propagandize particular points of view.” Another teacher stated, “It feels like politics invaded more than it should have into our civics training.”

The training workshop was developed in partnership with Hillsdale College, a small Christian-based college in Michigan, along with The Bill of Rights Institute, a far-right political and social organization sponsored by the Koch Brothers. Both organizations support DeSantis and his educational ideology toward Florida school children. 

Absent from the training was information about the legacy of enslaved people, as well as the history of civil rights. In fact, Florida recently banned several math textbooks which Governor DeSantis claimed was indoctrinating students with information about racism.

The narrative about the United States’ role in enslaving African people was particularly galling to the educators in the program. The curriculum emphasized that most enslaved people were born into slavery – and that the colonizers had less of a role in the slave trade than previously known.

Chillingly, DeSantis and his supporters believe that educating children using such a skewed narrative is integral for raising the next generation. According to DeSantis’ former education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, “Education is our sword. That’s our weapon. Our weapon is education. And we can do it. We can get it right.”

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