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Protests after Gov. DeSantis plan to eliminate Advanced Placement courses on African American studies. Photo: Joshua Lott/ The Washington Post/ Getty Images

Florida’s new African American History Standards generate controversy

The new guidelines will teach students that Black people benefited from slavery and perpetrated violence during race massacres.

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The Florida Board of Education approved new academic standards for teaching African American history that uses controversial language about Black people benefiting from slavery. The new guidelines will teach middle school students that “Slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” the 216-page document states—sparking criticism from education and civil rights advocates, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who said in a tweet, “Extremists are pushing forward revisionist history. They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dismissed Harris’ criticism of the curriculum, tweeting that “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. Florida stands in their way, and we will continue to expose their agenda and their lies.” 

This recent academic standard is part of DeSantis' political argumentation and statements against “woke ideology” in schools and “bars instruction in schools that suggests anyone is privileged or oppressed based on their race or skin color,” CNN reports

The language in the documents also makes Black people perpetrators of violence during race massacres: “Instruction includes acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans but is not limited to 1906 Atlanta Race Riot, 1919 Washington, D.C. Race Riot, 1920 Ocoee Massacre, 1921 Tulsa Massacre, and the 1923 Rosewood Massacre.”

“Our children deserve nothing less than truth, justice, and the equity our ancestors shed blood, sweat, and tears for,” Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, said in a statement condemning the new standards. “It is imperative that we understand that the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow were a violation of human rights and represent the darkest period in American history.”

The Florida Education Association (FEA), a statewide teachers union, said the new standards of African American history are a “big step backward for a state that has required teaching African American history since 1994.” 

“How can our students ever be equipped for the future if they don't have a full, honest picture of where we've come from? Florida's students deserve a world-class education that equips them to be successful adults who can help heal our nation's divisions rather than deepen them,” Andrew Spar, the association's president, said in a statement. “Gov. DeSantis is pursuing a political agenda guaranteed to set good people against one another, and in the process, he's cheating our kids. They deserve the full truth of American history, the good and the bad,” Spar added.

 

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