Florida officials have caused a firestorm online following the release of a new set of standards on how the state will teach black history to K-12 students.
Yesterday, the Florida Board of Education adopted new guidelines on black history curriculum, including a clarification on one section stating, “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
The statement was seized upon by critics of the revised program, with many arguing the state is seeking to distort history.
“I am very concerned by these standards, especially some of the notion that enslaved people benefited from being enslaved,” Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani told a local CBS News affiliate.”
The updated guidelines were enacted under the state’s “Stop WOKE Act,” which was signed into law last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Florida lawmakers drafted the legislation in response to controversial coursework that in some cases, among other things, grouped students by race and taught them they were either “oppressors” or “oppressed” solely by virtue of their skin color.
“No one should be instructed to feel as if they are not equal or shamed because of their race,” DeSantis said in a statement the day he signed the bill. “In Florida, we will not let the far-left woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces. There is no place for indoctrination or discrimination in Florida.”
The NAACP was among the groups blasting Florida officials following the revised guidelines, vowing to push back against the new education standards.
“Today’s actions by the Florida state government are an attempt to bring our country back to a 19th century America where Black life was not valued, nor our rights protected,” the NAACP said in a statement. “It is imperative that we understand that the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow were a violation of human rights and represent the darkest period in American history.”
The organization has been forthcoming about its disdain for Florida’s conservative leadership. Earlier this year, it declared a “travel advisory” for the state of Florida, claiming that the state’s lawmakers had engaged in a war on black Americans. Among the reasons cited was the Stop WOKE Act.
“The NAACP has been fighting against malicious actors such as those within the DeSantis Administration for over a century, and we’re prepared to continue that fight by any means necessary,” the organization says, responding to the new black history coursework taking effect.
MaryLynn Magar, a member of the state’s Board of Education, said at the July 19 meeting that there were no omissions in the new coursework and that “the darkest parts of our history are addressed,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
Still, others who spoke at the board meeting voiced objections.
“When I see the standards, I’m very concerned,” state Sen. Geraldine Thompson said. “If I were still a professor, I would do what I did very infrequently; I’d have to give this a grade of ‘I’ for incomplete. It recognizes that we have made an effort, we’ve taken a step. However, this history needs to be comprehensive. It needs to be authentic, and it needs additional work.”
She added as an example, “When you look at the history currently, it suggests that the [Ocoee] massacre was sparked by violence from African Americans. That’s blaming the victim.”
The revised guidelines also received bipartisan scorn on social media from users outraged over the content changes.
This is asinine @GovRonDeSantis. How dare your Dept of Education approve this trash. The new standards for school students to include “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Disgusting! https://t.co/mUuCdujwEM
— Gianno Caldwell (@GiannoCaldwell) July 20, 2023
— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) July 20, 2023
Ron DeSantis’s Florida Board of Education just voted to require schools to teach that slavery was helpful to Black slaves.
— Jordan Zakarin (@jordanzakarin) July 19, 2023