JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The Florida Board of Education adopted new standards for teaching African American history in grades K-12 Wednesday, despite criticism from groups like the Florida Education Association and NAACP.
The new African American History standards approved by the Board of Education span 137 pages.
“Our standards are factual, objective standards that really teach the good, the bad, and the ugly,” said Florida Chancellor of Public Schools Dr. Paul Burns.
But during public comment teachers, activists and even some state lawmakers argued the new standards don’t go far enough.
“I am very concerned by these standards, especially some of the notion that enslaved people benefited from being enslaved,” said State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando).
The new standards were spurred by additional requirements to teach comprehensive African American history included in the so-called “S.T.O.P. W.O.K.E. Act”.
Critics argued the standards only tell half of the story because parts of that same law limit how race can be discussed in the classroom.
“When we name political figures who worked to end slavery, but leave anyone who worked to keep slavery nameless, kids are forced to fill in the blanks for themselves,” said Carol Cleaver, a middle school teacher from Pensacola.
In a press release following the vote, the state’s largest teachers’ union criticized the inclusion of the Ocoee Massacre under a section detailing acts of violence perpetuated against and ‘by’ African Americans and argued another section teaches middle school students slavery benefited African Americans because it helped them acquire skills.
“If a slave learned a trade being a slave, that’s not a good thing, it’s just a fact that it did occur,” said Florida Education Commissioner in an interview with Action News Jax Wednesday afternoon.
Diaz countered arguments made by opponents, contending the new standards lay the groundwork for the important figures, events, and concepts teachers will cover and expand upon in the classroom.
“This is an in-depth, deep dive into African American history, which is clearly American history as Governor DeSantis has said, and what Florida has done is expand it,” said Diaz.
But FEA President Andrew Spar argued the threat of retribution for teaching ‘woke’ concepts will make teachers weary to delve deeper into the details of African American history.
“Teachers who dare to teach that may not be specifically mentioned in the standards are fearful they will lose their jobs,” said Spar.
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Commissioner Diaz noted the task force that helped craft the new standards will continue to meet.
He said it’s possible the African American history standards will continue to be updated based on recommendations that come out of that group.