Florida is once again in the spotlight. This time it’s because a new education initiative and civics training created by its conservative Gov. Ron DeSantis has some longtime educators sounding the alarm.
Some educators in the sunshine state recently told the Miami Herald they were deeply concerned about the state’s new approach to teaching civics after attending a three-day training in Broward County.
According to several teachers who went on record, DeSantis’ Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative is DeSantis’ latest attempt to legislate away history and education conservative Republicans are uncomfortable with.
“It is disturbing, really, that through these workshops and through legislation, there is this attempt to both censor and to drive or propagandize particular points of view,” Richard Judd, a 22-year veteran social studies teacher at Nova High School who attended the state-led training last week, told the Herald
“It was very skewed,” Barbara Segal, a 12th-grade government teacher at Fort Lauderdale High School, said in a separate interview. “There was a very strong Christian fundamentalist way toward analyzing different quotes and different documents. That was concerning.”
Teachers who attended the civics training were given a $700 stipend as an incentive, the Herald reported. Those who complete the expanded 60-hour course for the initiative also get a $3,000 bonus.
Some say the money extra money does not absolve the Florida legislature of its attempts to “indoctrinate” new civics teachers and students.
“We are constantly under attack, and there is this false narrative that we’re indoctrinating children, but that is nothing compared to what the state just threw in new civic educators’ faces. That’s straight-up indoctrination,” added Segal, who’s taught for 19 years.
According to a summation by the Herald, “trainers told Broward teachers the nation’s founders did not desire a strict separation of state and church, downplayed the role the colonies and later the United States had in the history of slavery in America, and pushed a judicial theory, favored by legal conservatives like DeSantis, that requires people to interpret the Constitution as the framers intended it, not as a living, evolving document, according to three educators who attended the training.”
This isn’t the first time Florida’s Department of Education has come under fire for its failure to adequately teach subjects like slavery in its curriculum.
A 2018 study by the Southern Poverty Law Center which reviewed the academic standards of 15 states, including Florida, found the state was lacking in it’s curriculum about slavery.
“There are huge gaps with teachers, in textbooks and in the state standards, which tend to avoid slavery, which was incredibly important to the American economy,” Maureen Costello, director of the law center’s Teaching Tolerance project, told Jacksonville.com. “(Slavery’s) profits fueled the Industrial Revolution and built our country in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
The Florida Department of Education denied the teachers’ claims about the new curriculum.
“Every lesson we teach is based on history, not ideology or any form of indoctrination. Let us know if you are actually interested in reviewing the coursework and understanding it for yourself,” the department said in a statement.
PHOTO: George Washington, left, and Thomas Jefferson, right, were both slave owners. (This slide was shown during the Florida Department of Education training series for civics and government teachers, special to the Miami Herald)