The Florida Board of Education has set new standards for how Black history should be taught in the state’s public schools, with critics calling the move a “big step backward.”
On Wednesday (July 19), the standards were approved at the Florida Board Of Education’s meeting in Orlando, CNN reports. The approval comes after the state passed new legislation barring all school curricula that suggests anyone is privileged or oppressed based on race or skin color.
Under the new standards, middle school students will be taught “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit” during instruction about slavery, according to the Florida Department of Education website.
High school students who are learning about the 1920 Ococee massacre and other historical attacks against Black people will be taught how “acts of violence [were] perpetrated against and by African Americans,” per the new rules.
The new standards come amid the state declining to implement a pilot version of an Advanced Placement African American Studies course for high school students, which the education department claimed lacked educational value.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson condemned the new standards.
“Our children deserve nothing less than truth, justice, and the equity our ancestors shed blood, sweat, and tears for,” Johnson said in a statement. “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, a statewide teachers union, echoed Johnson’s sentiments, saying the standards were “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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