Florida education board backs controversial guidelines on critical race theory
Backing DeSantis’ campaign against critical race theory, the Board of Education approved guidelines on the way US history is taught in public schools.
Fox – 35 Orlando, Fox – 35 Orlando
Florida adopted the Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking program in 2019 under Gov. Ron DeSantis. You can review the timeline on the Florida Department of Education’s website (fldoe.org).
This year’s focus on textbooks is in keeping with the plan to adopt new materials to, in theory, refocus instruction from the ambiguities of Common Core to a richer, better education for Florida’s public school students.
Consider the goal for civics, according to the state: “A first in the nation, Florida’s BEST Standards embed civics throughout kindergarten through 12th-grade ELA Standards, with a civic reading list that includes foundational American documents. These historical documents provide the foundation of civic literacy that continues to grow students’ civic knowledge, including historical context, vocabulary, and reasoning and debate that results in a complete understanding of American history.”
Why, then, did DeSantis add this in House Bill 7, passed in April this year? “Schools are required to teach factual information on topics including African-American history and the Holocaust instead of subjective indoctrination that pushes collective guilt.” (italics mine).
Subjective, as in personal stories? Firsthand experiences? Do those not offer the most accurate historical contexts possible?
The fear is that teaching children that our forefathers made not only amazing inroads, but also devastatingly bad decisions for which society still suffers, will somehow negatively impact them. How can more details, more facts and more context do anything but help students form their own opinions about what poor decisions to avoid in the future — as voters, as leaders, as parents, as citizens?
Just one example: At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, when the 10 northern states wanted Congress to ban the slave trade, the three southern states threatened to pull out altogether. A compromise was enacted that delayed the ban. Within five years, the invention of the cotton gin made slavery even more important to the South.
Tens of thousands of slaves were brought to America because the convention failed to do the right thing when it had the opportunity.
I wasn’t taught that, growing up. Sometimes less is more, but not in the case of history.
Teaching students at even an early age that governments can, and do, make poor decisions are not induction; it is the truth. There are ways to teach even hard truths in an age-appropriate format.
A study of history inevitably opens up cans of worms some would rather forget, but it also provides a platform for discussion and debate — if BEST’s pursuit of “complete understanding” quoted earlier is for real.
In the June 2021 issue of The Atlantic, writer Anne Applebaum compares a former college class in which students analyzed literature through various lenses with today’s emphasis on — some might say “obsession with” — critical race theory.
“You can be inspired by the Declaration of Independence, horrified by the expulsions of Native Americans, amazed by the energy of immigrants and frontier settlers,” she wrote. “You can understand that the United States is a great and unique country whose values are worth defending — and simultaneously realize that this same country has made terrible mistakes and carried out horrific crimes. Is it so difficult to hold all of these disparate ideas in your head at the same time?”
Instead of being afraid that our children will be indoctrinated by too much truth, let’s provide them with an abundance of information — and context — while utilizing the tools of social emotional learning (another nemesis for the fearful): cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy , and self-control.
Ellen Gillette is a substitute teacher and author in Fort Pierce.