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Florida bans the teaching of critical race theory in the state

Posted at 12:18 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-10 21:08:08-04

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Education changed its curriculum requirements Thursday, banning the teaching of the controversial topic of critical race theory. The vote came after multiple hours of public comment and saw no board members vote against the measure.

Governor DeSantis spoke first Thursday and didn't hold back saying critical race theory, or CRT, was not needed in the classrooms in Florida.

“The woke class wants to teach kids to hate each other, rather than teaching them how to read, but we will not let them bring nonsense ideology into Florida’s schools,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “As the Governor of Florida, I love this state, and I love my country. I find it unthinkable that there are other people in positions of leadership in the federal government who believe that we should teach kids to hate our country. We will not stand for it here in Florida. I'm proud that we are taking action today to ensure our state continues to have the greatest educational system in the nation.”

The board discussed changes to rule number 6A-1.094124 with the title of “Required Instruction Planning and Reporting.” The original language of the rule stated:

“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.”

However, the board amended part of the rule to specify critical race theory and targeted the New York Times' 1619 Project.

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 and Reconstruction, the civil rights movement and the contributions of women, African American and Hispanic people to our country, as already provided in Section 1003.42(2) F.S. Examples of theories that distort historical events and are inconsistent with State Board approved standards include the denial or minimization of the Holocaust, and the teaching of Critical Race Theory, meaning the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons. Instruction may not utilize material from the 1619 Project 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. Instruction must include the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and subsequent amendments.

The changes proposed by the DOE and those made by the FEA come at a time of heightened politicization surrounding education. Multiple states have made changes to state curriculum to specifically outlaw the possibility of teaching critical race theory.

What is Critical Race Theory?

  • Michigan State University Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Teacher Education at MSU’s College of Education defines critical race theory as, “a framework developed in the 1970’s by legal scholars that argues white supremacy maintains power through the law and other legal systems.” It also “dismisses the idea that racism stems from acts of individuals, but rather rooted in a system of oppression based on socially constructed racial hierarchy where white people reap material benefits over people of color resulting from misuse of power.”
  • Berkeley Law Professor Khiara M. Bridges outlined key tenets of CRT to the American Bar Association:
    • Recognition that race is not biologically real but is socially constructed and socially significant. It recognizes that science (as demonstrated in the Human Genome Project) refutes the idea of biological racial differences. According to scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, race is the product of social thought and is not connected to biological reality.
    • Acknowledgement that racism is a normal feature of society and is embedded within systems and institutions, like the legal system, that replicate racial inequality. This dismisses the idea that racist incidents are aberrations but instead are manifestations of structural and systemic racism.
    • Rejection of popular understandings about racism, such as arguments that confine racism to a few “bad apples.” CRT recognizes that racism is codified in law, embedded in structures, and woven into public policy. CRT rejects claims of meritocracy or “colorblindness.” CRT recognizes that it is the systemic nature of racism that bears primary responsibility for reproducing racial inequality.
    • Recognition of the relevance of people’s everyday lives to scholarship. This includes embracing the lived experiences of people of color, including those preserved through storytelling, and rejecting deficit-informed research that excludes the epistemologies of people of color.

More than a dozen states have introduced or passed laws banning the teaching of the subject, despite opposition from many educators.