Florida’s New Black History Curriculum Faces Backlash for Misrepresentation of Slavery

Florida’s Board of Education recently approved new standards for teaching Black history in public schools, but the decision has faced immediate backlash and criticism.[0] Critics argue that the updated standards represent a step backward in terms of providing an accurate and honest portrayal of African American history.

The State Board of Education adopted these standards at a meeting in Orlando after hearing from numerous individuals who urged the board to reconsider their vote.[1] The standards outline what students should learn about African American history from kindergarten through high school.[2]

One of the most controversial changes is the inclusion of a guideline for middle school students that suggests enslaved people developed skills that could be applied for their personal benefit.[3] Critics argue that this statement implies that slavery was beneficial to some enslaved individuals, which is a gross misrepresentation of history.[4]

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke out against Florida’s new Black history curriculum during a speech in Jacksonville.[5] She criticized the decision to teach students that Black people somehow benefited from slavery and accused right-wing Republicans of attempting to rewrite American history. Harris called these leaders “extremist so-called leaders” and vowed to fight against their agenda.

Harris questioned how anyone could suggest that there was any benefit to being subjected to the atrocities of slavery.[6] She argued that these actions involved dehumanizing people and that it is essential for students to have a full and honest understanding of history in order to be equipped for the future.

Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, condemned the Florida government’s actions, stating that they are attempting to bring the country back to a time when Black life was not valued and rights were not protected.[7] He emphasized that the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow were a violation of human rights and represent the darkest period in American history.[7] Johnson expressed the NAACP’s commitment to fighting against these actions and ensuring that children receive an education based on truth, justice, and equity.

The Florida Education Association, a union representing over 150,000 educators, also criticized the new curriculum.[8] They described it as a disservice to students and a step backward for the state, which has required the teaching of African American history since 1994.

The controversy surrounding the new standards centers on the perception that they downplay the horrors of slavery and present a sanitized version of history.[9] Critics argue that it is essential for students to learn the truth about the dehumanization and oppression that enslaved people faced, rather than suggesting that there were any benefits to their enslavement.

In addition to the controversy surrounding the teaching of slavery, there are concerns about the depiction of racially motivated massacres in Florida’s history.[9] Some critics argue that the standards conflate these events and fail to accurately portray the violence perpetrated against African Americans.

The decision to implement these new standards has sparked a larger debate about how history is taught in schools and the importance of providing an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the past. Supporters of the updated curriculum argue that it presents a more nuanced view of history, while critics believe it whitewashes the true impact of slavery and perpetuates harmful stereotypes.

Ultimately, the controversy surrounding Florida’s new Black history curriculum highlights the ongoing struggle to accurately teach and understand the history of marginalized communities in the United States. It underscores the importance of providing students with a comprehensive education that reflects the diverse experiences and contributions of all Americans.

0. “Florida Board of Education approves controversial standards for teaching Black history” The Hill, 20 Jul. 2023, https://thehill.com/policy/4106951-florida-board-of-education-approves-controversial-standards-for-teaching-black-history/

1. “South Florida educator calls new African American history standards ‘ridiculous'” WPTV News Channel 5 West Palm, 21 Jul. 2023, https://www.wptv.com/news/education/former-palm-beach-county-school-board-member-calls-new-african-american-history-standards-ridiculous

2. “Critics say American American history will be whitewashed” Orlando Sentinel, 19 Jul. 2023, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/2023/07/19/florida-oks-new-black-history-standards-critics-call-it-whitewash

3. “‘They insult us’: Harris hits DeSantis over Florida’s new U.S. history standards” POLITICO, 21 Jul. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/07/21/harris-desantis-florida-history-standards-00107569

4. “Harris visits DeSantis’s home turf to blast his Black history policies – The Washington Post” The Washington Post, 22 Jul. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/07/21/harris-desantis-florida-black-history/

5. “Critics unleash on Kamala Harris’ ‘evil,’ ‘astonishing lie’ about Florida’s school curriculum on slavery” Fox News, 21 Jul. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/critics-unleash-kamala-harris-evil-astonishing-lie-florida-school-curriculum-slavery

6. “Kamala Harris slams Florida’s new teaching guidelines in speech” MSNBC, 21 Jul. 2023, https://www.msnbc.com/the-reidout/reidout-blog/kamala-harris-speech-florida-slavery-teaching-standards-rcna95596

7. “Florida Board of Education OK’s Anti-LGBTQ+ Policies, Sanitized View of Slavery” Advocate.com, 21 Jul. 2023, https://www.advocate.com/education/florida-schools-anti-lgbtq

8. “Kamala Harris heads to Florida for culture war fight over black history teaching” The Telegraph, 21 Jul. 2023, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2023/07/21/kamala-harris-heads-to-florida-slavery-history-schools/

9. “NAACP President Decries New Florida Board of Education Rules” NAACP, 19 Jul. 2023, https://naacp.org/articles/naacp-president-decries-new-florida-board-education-rules

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