The Center Square
By John Haughey
June 10, 2021
(The Center Square) – The Florida Board of Education (BOE) will meet Thursday in Jacksonville to discuss a proposed rule prohibiting teachers from teaching K-12 students about critical race theory.
Critical race theory (CRT) is, in brief, an academic concept that racism is not just an individual bias or prejudice but is systemic, embedded in institutions, courts and economic policies.
Although not included in state-approved curriculum or taught in Florida’s K-12 schools, CRT has emerged as a lightning rod for Republican criticism nationwide and in Florida with Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s two U.S. senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, issuing recent statements condemning the theory.
CRT is “basically teaching kids to hate our country and to hate each other based on race. It puts race as the most important thing. I want content of character to be the most important thing,” DeSantis told reporters in March.
The governor, seeking re-election in 2022 and a 2024 GOP presidential favorite among possible candidates, has maintained a steady drum beat in blasting CRT since, including during appearances on TV and radio outlets in recent days.
On Fox News last weekend, DeSantis said he has asked Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, a former Florida Speaker of the House, to present the proposed rule to the BOE to ensure “any departure from accurate history” is banned.
Appearing on Fox’s “Unfiltered with Dan Bongino” Saturday night, DeSantis threatened to target Republican school board members who support CRT or “mandatory masking of school children.”
School board races in Florida are nonpartisan, but DeSantis said he’ll make them partisan to ensure CRT is banned.
“Local elections matter. We’re going to get the Florida political apparatus involved so we can make sure there’s not a single school board member who supports critical race theory,” he said.
The proposed rule would impose strict guidelines on teaching U.S. history.
“Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, and may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence,” it states.
The rule would require any classroom discussion be deemed “appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students,” and prohibits teachers from “sharing personal views or attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.”
The Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teachers union, in a Tuesday letter urged the BOE to have “some respect” for teachers and nix or dramatically amend the rule.
The FEA alleges the rule “appears to have a political rather than educational motive.”
“Students deserve the best education we can provide, and that means giving them a true picture of their world and our shared history as Americans. Hiding facts doesn’t change them. Give kids the whole truth and equip them to make up their own minds and think for themselves,” FEA President Andrew Spar said.
The FEA wants to expand “acceptable topics” for discussion.
“Identifying the Holocaust as the only listed example of a ‘significant historical event’ omits important areas for instruction and discussion that are specifically included in the statute this rule addresses,” the FEA states. “If giving students a good education is the goal, the rule could be amended to say in part: ‘Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective, and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow.’”