Following the George Floyd murder and the national discussion over “critical race theory” — which encompasses slavery, segregation and institutionalized racism — Florida’s proposed civics standards for school don’t mention the word slavery.
What is mentioned is the famous phrase: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That’s noted as “God-given rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence,” according to the proposed standards.
But Black people, who were enslaved, did not have liberty at that time.
In another section of the proposed standards, “students will recognize Rosa Parks and Thomas Jefferson as individuals who represent the United States.”
But not all schoolchildren would quickly recognize the connection between the two, even though they are centuries apart.
The late Rosa Parks was a Black woman known for refusing to give up her seat in the back of the bus in order to make room for a white passenger during the segregation era.
Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president of the United States, was the main author of the 1776 Declaration of Independence who also owned hundreds of Black people as slaves, according to an article from the Smithsonian Magazine.
He is a contentious figure, in part, because of his sexual relationship to a young Black slave. She bore his children, according to an exhibit at Monticello about the slave, Sally Hemings. The exhibit explores the relationship and considers whether it should be described as rape.
The proposed standards, along with others, are part of a review of civics education in Florida. The goal is to “ensure Florida students have the highest quality civics education courses throughout the nation,” according to the Florida Department of Education.
But with increased discussion about “critical race theory” and the relationship between race and the history of the United States, the proposed standards could become a point of contention.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has been adamant about banning critical race theory. He previously said that “there is no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory.”
What is said, and what is not said in these proposed standards could shape how Florida’s education system addresses history and civics and its nuances for years to come.
“History by its very nature is controversial,” Bob Holladay, an adjunct professor of history at Tallahassee Community College, said in a conversation with the Phoenix. “Teaching history is tough because so much of it is interpretive — it’s not like solving a math problem.” And history is linked to civics.
Another interesting note is the way the language in the proposed standards frames civil rights. It does not directly acknowledge the United States government’s role in ensuring that some groups of people did not have the same rights as others when the country was established.
For example, a standard for high schoolers in the proposed standards suggest that students should know how principles in foundational documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, “expanded” voting rights and civics participation to marginalized groups — rather than acknowledging how the American government originally suppressed the rights of certain groups, such as Black people and women, and how these rights had to be fought for and added into the Constitution through amendments decades later.
In addition, the proposed civics standards could affect conversations around other topics outside of race.
For seventh graders and high schoolers, the proposed civics standards say that students should be able to recognize landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases.
One is Brown vs. Board of Education, declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Another is Miranda vs. Arizona, which is the namesake of the Miranda Rights the police read to people in custody explaining the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
The examples of landmark Supreme Court cases do not include the likes of Roe v. Wade, which grants pregnant people the right to choose to have an abortion. The list also does not include Obergefell v. Hodges, which granted gay people the right to marry in all 50 states.
The new proposed civics standards are still under review, and the Board of Education will be touring to certain areas in Florida to present the standards and listen to public comments
The tour will be held in three areas: Miami-Dade County on Tuesday, June 1; Osceola County on Thursday, June 3; and Baker County on Wednesday, June 9.
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix
This is just pitiful! Our nations history is drenched in bloodshed from the first moment whites set foot here and continues today. Judgement day ought to be interesting.
James M. Mejuto says
Isn’t it exactly what Republicans want?: Not to talk about racism in the country of RACISM.
No one really knows how a history class or social studies class can actually talk and discuss
the facts of life .
Do people of conscience actually believe the USA is the greatest country in the world ?
James M. Mejuto
@How long til the odious Republican book burners take the next step?
Auchtung florduh folk!
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
― George Orwell
down so says
I guess stopping Dr Suees sales is not part of the cancel culture woke crowd? what is going on with the renaming of schools and streets based on historical hero’s? How about the statues throughout the US being toppled due to the woke cancel culture?
Civics is the study of the rights and duties of citizenship. It has nothing to with slavery.
Bill C says
How does society know what rights and duties they have? They are enshrined and defined in the laws which all must follow if society is to function. On the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, it is a reminder of what happens when the law is applied selectively to favor one group over another. and why civics education must include the story of slavery in order to preserve our democracy with laws based on wisdom derived from truth, not fables.
Mike Cocchiola says
All part of Civil War II. The red states are creating their own history, their own reality.
The question is, will honorable teachers, from elementary schools to universities, give their support to this fraud?
E, ROBOT says
Why would a Civics course mention slavery?
Sad Times says
Once again….stupidity raises its ugly head.
What on earth are people afraid of? Our history is our history. Before we know it….Christopher Columbus will be erased from our history, too.
What purpose does such a proposition serve? Do we have so many cowards?
We were never taught that America was racist in school. We covered about what is me too Ed in this article. Never learned about Jefferson and his slaves. Obama brought race issues to the top of his agenda. The country is more separated today because of the political needs of the Democratic Party, who by the way was the most racist party ever in America. The party of the KKK, Jim Crow and we to war to keep its slaves. This is just a few of the racist issues from the democrats. Why would you want to teach kids to hate America? It’s all a political agenda in America to win future votes by creation of more racism in America. America has truly lost its way from the political corruption of both parties.
Ray W. says
More proof that people are allowed to wander through life fooling themselves. One of the most difficult things in life is to not fool oneself. Keep wandering, Dennis.
This is absurd! This nation has a past saturated in blood from the moment white man set foot here. His superior attitude is very much present today when I hear these Republicans say January 6th was not what we saw, these animals came in like a tour group, some hugging and kissing the guards. Better be careful America, we’re headed into dangerous territory. We are leaving our democracy as shown by voter suppression and hearing these leaders support our former dictator-wanna-be.
Jack Howell says
So let me understand the collective wisdom of the governor and the state legislatures on this topic. If I’m teaching Marine Corps history to high school students as part of the Junior ROTC curriculum, am I prohibited from mentioning that until 1941, blacks were not allowed in the Marine Corps? Or how about talking about the reasons for the Civil War and the issue of slavery. What about the Jim Crow laws that the Southern states adopted as a form of black suppression. Let’s not forget about the voting rights campaign in the early 1960s and the number of blacks and whites killed in helping with black voter registration in the South. Not too long ago, I saw a door on a bathroom in a government building that stated: “Colored.”
So, these Lilly white assholes in Tallahassee and some other states think removing this ugly part of US history will make it all go away? What a load of crap. All this shameful, and I can see the lawsuits lining up.
Ten-hut! There’s an officer on deck!
Unlike in the mansions of the elected Republican reptiles and qnuts in this swamp.
God bless you sir.
Someone once said; “It is easier to deceive people, than convince them that they are deceived”.
James M. Mejuto says
It’s unbelievable folks that one political party could dictate the very essence of our being!
Classroom teachers will not be allowed to intelligently teach actual history !
James M. Mejuto
How in the world do you learn CIVICS without the historical CONTEXT of how and why our Democratic governing processes were formed? Leaving out the tragedy of Slavery, as well as the savagery of Europeans imposed on native Americans, is intended by Republicans to politically “whitewash” the racism/discrimination/injustice that continues to exist systemically throughout our culture today!
This from Brookings:
WHAT CONSTITUTES A HIGH-QUALITY CIVICS EDUCATION?
As with almost any attempt to identify a set of “best” practices in education, we find different perspectives from different experts, with a research base too thin to offer unambiguous guidance. In this context, we turn to what appears to be as close as we could reasonably expect to a consensus view from experts—the Six Proven Practices for Effective Civic Learning framework. Motivating this framework is a notion that teaching students facts about U.S. government is a goal, but not the exclusive goal, of civics education. The aim of civics education is broader and includes providing students with an understanding of how democratic processes work, as well as how to engage in these processes. A high-quality civics education thus includes opportunities for students to engage in activities within the classroom that model what democratic processes look like, as well as opportunities to participate in the civic life of their communities and learn from this participation as a formal part of their coursework.
Reflecting this concept of what constitutes an effective civics education, the Proven Practices framework recommends that civics instruction include a set of practices that, together, provide students with the civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions that will equip them to participate in American democracy.