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Vice President Kamala Harris slammed changes to the Florida curriculum that teach students enslaved people “benefited” from slavery.
“Just yesterday in the state of Florida, they decided middle schoolers will be taught that enslaved people benefited from Slavery,” Harris said on Friday, speaking at the Delta Sigma Theta convention in Indianapolis.
“Teachers want to teach the truth,” Harris said in a speech. “And teachers dedicate themselves to some of the most noble work any human being could take on – to teach other peoples’ children.”
“And so they should not be told by politicians that they must teach revisionist history in order to keep their jobs.”
The new curriculum standards implemented under Florida Governor and U.S. Presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis have ignited controversy nationwide. According to documents from the Florida Department of Education, the shifts affect 5th through 8th grade social studies.
The change is a “Benchmark Clarification” for standards requiring students to learn about “duties and trades performed by slaves”.
“Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be
applied for their personal benefit,” the updates curriculum reads.
NAACP president Derrick Johnson condemned the Florida standards in an official statement.
Johnson called the change “an attempt to bring our country back to a 19th century America where Black life was not valued, nor our rights protected.”
DeSantis claims he “wasn’t involved” in the standards created by the board he appointed.
When confronted about the standards, DeSantis claimed he had nothing to do with them.
“I didn’t do it. I wasn’t involved in it,” DeSantis said, according to People Magazine.
However, Florida Department of Education is lead by individuals appointed by DeSantis. These individuals were following guidance in the Stop WOKE Act the Governor championed and signed into law in 2022.
DeSantis even went on to criticize Vice President Harris’s rebuke of the standards as “absolutely ridiculous”. The Governor, who shut down an AP African American History course last year, then claimed Florida has “the most robust standards for African American history anywhere in the country.”
Conservative Governors and legislators across the country have been actively attacking Black history courses since 2021. Many states have passed laws similar to Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act” to limit what students can learn in class. These laws make it illegal to teach anything in a manner that causes students to feel “uncomfortable” because of their race.
Anti-Black history laws spurring backlash in states nationwide
A similar law in Oklahoma was also put to the test recently. Far-right State Superintendent Ryan Walters was asked how teachers can educate students about the Tulsa Race Massacre under state law. Walters responded by saying lessons about the race massacre that destroyed Greenwood shouldn’t be tied to race.
“You be judgmental of the action, of the content of the character of the individual – absolutely,” Walters said in July. “But let’s not tie it to the skin color and say that the skin color determined it.”
Walters walked the comments back after national backlash.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Walters ally, has made attacking so-called “woke” education a pillar of his presidential campaign.
National polls show DeSantis’s average support has dropped nearly 13 points in five months. The DeSantis campaign claims growing support, however recent polls show him falling to just 12 and 13 percent support among Republican voters, respectively.