Florida's new guidelines on teaching Black history draws sharp criticism

By Reuters: Florida’s board of education has approved new guidelines for teachers on how Black American history should be taught, despite sharp criticism from some educators and civil rights groups.

Among the new guidelines for educators are “benchmark clarifications,” including one for middle school students that states “instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

The board of education approved the new teaching guidelines for kindergarten through high school on Wednesday. Florida’s Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said during the board meeting in Orlando that the guidelines go into the “tougher subjects” of slavery and racist violence, as appropriate by age.

“Nothing was removed, including what we continue to say was the good, the bad and the ugly,” Diaz said at the board meeting.

William Allen and Frances Presley Rice, both members of the working group that developed the new guidelines, said in a statement Thursday that the new language regarding slaves learning specialized skills was meant to show they were not merely victims.

“Florida students deserve to learn how slaves took advantage of whatever circumstances they were in to benefit themselves and the community of African descendants,” according to the statement from Allen, a political scientist, and Presley Rice, an author who co-founded a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about the roles African Americans have played in the nation’s history.

But Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a statement that the school board’s decision was an attempt “to bring our country back to a 19th-century America where Black life was not valued.”

The Florida Education Association teachers’ union said in a statement that the new standards “confirmed many of the worst fears” teachers had following the passage of laws targeting “woke” ideology in the state.

The approval follows moves by Governor Ron DeSantis, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, to combat what he labelled “woke indoctrination.”

Earlier this year, Florida rejected a proposed Advanced Placement course in African American studies, saying it was littered with leftist ideology. DeSantis has battled against Disney over its criticism of a Florida law banning classroom discussion of sexuality and gender.

Florida is also one of several states to have banned the teaching of critical race theory, which posits that racial bias is woven into US laws and institutions.

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