The Florida Board of Education has recently given its approval for new standards aimed at teaching Black history in public schools. However, the decision has faced swift backlash from education and civil rights advocates, who argue that the standards present a distorted and incomplete view of important historical events.
Under the newly approved standards, middle school students will be required to learn about how slaves developed skills for their personal “benefit,” while high school students must be taught about violent acts committed against and “by” African Americans, including incidents like the Ocoee massacre and the Tulsa race massacre.
During a presentation at Miami-Dade College discussing the state’s new Black history standards, John Duebel, the director of social studies and the arts bureau of standards and instructional support for the Florida Department of Education, faced criticism from teachers who expressed their disapproval with the new controversial standards. Duebel tried to clarify that the intention was not to imply that slaves benefited from slavery, but rather to highlight their resilience.
“This has been interpreted to mean slaves benefited from slavery and that is not the standard at all,” Duebel said. “What this is saying is, this is not the story simply of victims who withered in the face of repression, but rather the story of a resilient people who responded to their oppressors.”
The explanations given by the officials behind the standards have not placated the critics, including Vice President Kamala Harris.
“Just yesterday, in the State of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery,” said Harris in an address at the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. National Convention. “They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it.”
This is not the first controversy Florida has seen around Black history. Gov. Ron DeSantis has already sparred with College Board over their new Advanced Placement African American Studies course. A fallout that caused the NAACP to issue a travel advisory for the state of Florida due to ”aggressive attempts to erase Black history.” Florida along with Texas and several other red states have openly pushed back against curriculum and standards they perceive as “woke.” However, critics describe their efforts as a censorship campaign and question why most of their attention is around Black and LGBTQ+ material.
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