As reported by NBC News, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Jacksonville, Fla. Friday, July 21, to denounce Florida’s Board of Education’s new standards regarding how Black history will be taught in schools, calling it “propaganda” being spread by extremists.
Harris’ last-minute trip came only two days after Republican presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a revised Black history curriculum approved by the Florida Board of Education. The new standards explaining how public schools should approach Black history sparked controversy as they now suggest some slaves acquired beneficial skills during forced labor.
“How is it that anyone could suggest that in the midst of these atrocities that there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization?” Harris asked while speaking at the Ritz Theater and Museum, located in the historic African American neighborhood of La Villa.
Harris further stated that schools would better prepare students for the world if they spoke about the truth of Black American history without glossing over historical crimes.
“Let us not be seduced into believing that somehow we will be better if we forget,” she said. “We will be better if we remember. We will be stronger if we remember.”
Well, apparently the state of Florida thinks otherwise.
In the revised curriculum, each grade has its own required Black history course subject that teachers are now required to instruct. For example, kindergartners will learn about African American inventors and explorers such as Mae C. Jemison and George Washington Carver. Teachers of third-grade students will teach African Americans who demonstrated heroism from Rosa Parks and the Tuskegee Airmen to Martin Luther King and President Barack Obama. Florida students in the fifth grade will learn about slavery, specifically about the slaves’ journey to fighting for freedom and rights; while middle and high school students will learn about the economic and political factors of slavery, including how slaves revolted against slavery and fought for equality.
While the revised Black curriculum included in a 216-page document appears to go into great length detailing African American history, it’s a huge disservice to all students as it fails to discuss the horrific details regarding the terrible treatment of African Americans dating from the slave trade to post-slavery, including today. For example, Florida students will learn about the tragic and gruesome 1921 Tulsa Massacre in a section with instruction that “includes acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans,” in which Florida’s Board of Education made it a point to victim blame.
In other words, Florida teachers’ revised Black history curriculum is low-hanging fruit. If the new standard is really going to discuss the tragic events and treatments Black people faced back then and continue to face to this day, there needs to be more depth and key details included.
However, in what seems like an attempt to make themselves feel better about slavery and the treatment of Black people, Florida’s Board of Education requires teachers to instruct “how slaves developed skills which in some instances, could be applied for their benefit.”
When asked about the Board of Education’s wording in regards to teaching about slavery, DeSantis appeared to try and distance himself, while low-key supporting the revised curriculum.
I didn’t do it and I wasn’t involved in it,” he told reporters. “But I think, I think what they’re probably going to show some of the folks [slaves] that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into, into doing things later in life,” he continued.
Right. This statement makes sense coming from him, considering he signed a bill he referred to as the “Stop WOKE Act,” which limits the discussion of race and gender in schools and businesses. The law essentially says individuals shouldn’t “bear[s] personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish or other forms of psychological distress” over actions committed in the past by members of the same race, gender or national origin.
In response to Harris’ quick visit to Jacksonville, DeSantis tweeted the following: “Democrats like Kamala Harris have to lie about Florida’s educational standards to cover for their agenda of indoctrinating students and pushing sexual topics onto children,” he wrote. “Florida stands in their way and we will continue to expose their agenda and their lies.”
Meanwhile, Harris finished her speech by referring to the new standard as a distraction that’s causing unnecessary division in our country, all while encouraging everyone to not allow it to happen.
“We gotta remind the folks of Florida that you’re not fighting out here by yourself, Harris said. “We believe in you.”
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