Florida — The Florida Board of Education issued new rules for teaching Black history in schools last week, causing some criticism. While acknowledging that slavery provided benefits to African Americans, the new criteria sought to connect African Americans with violence throughout history.
The requirements were attacked by the state’s teachers’ union, as well as hundreds of others around the country. Vice President Kamala Harris slammed the move on Friday, calling it an endeavor by radical leaders to disseminate lies.
Read also: FedNow is set to debut later this month
The vice president speaks out
The Florida Board of Education’s new curriculum was bound to cause uproar since it argued that slaves benefited from forced work by learning new skills. Many people were outraged by the policy’s overt purpose to deceive youngsters.
The criteria was adopted in a 216-page document outlining how Black history should be taught in public schools on Wednesday. It also defined norms for teachers to follow when teaching useful skills to slaves for personal advantage.
In a speech last week in Jacksonville, Kamala Harris criticized the newly designed curriculum, saying:
“They want to replace history with lies. These extremist, so-called leaders should model what we know to be the correct and right approach if we really are invested in the well-being of our children. Instead, they dare to push propaganda to our children. This is the United States of America. We’re not supposed to do that.”
“How is it that anyone could suggest that in the midst of these atrocities that there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization?”
Kamala Harris then spoke about her own educational experiences. Coming from a public education system, the vice president argued that teachers gave students a wide range of material, allowing them to draw their own conclusions and use critical thinking in ways that directly affected their leadership.
“It is because of that approach that I stand before you as vice president of the United States,” said Harris.
Trip to Jacksonville
According to a White House official, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Jacksonville on the spur of the moment last Friday in reaction to the Florida Board of Education’s revised Black history curriculum requirements.
Harris informed her staff that she would be flying to Florida the next day as she embarked Air Force 2 for a flight to Indianapolis for an event on Thursday morning. According to an official, the vice president requested her staff to investigate “what a trip would look like,” and they planned the trip on the way back to DC.
According to a White House official, the trip to Jacksonville was intended to highlight what was going on in Florida and around the country. Harris aimed to emphasize the necessity of preserving American history, as well as rising up and fighting back, and to remind children, parents, teachers, and Floridians that they were not alone in this endeavor.
Political officials, religious leaders, parents, and teachers were all scheduled to participate at the Friday speaking event. Everyone who was invited came from a range of backgrounds and colors, but they were all worried about Florida’s new criterion for teaching Black history.
Florida Gov. responds
Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis disallowed an advanced credit African American studies course that would have been offered in the state’s secondary schools. DeSantis went to Twitter after discovering that Harris had visited Jacksonville to attack the vice president.
“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,” he tweeted.
“Florida stands in their way and we will continue to expose their agenda and their lies.”
Later that day, Florida Governor Rick Scott talked with the media, claiming to oppose but yet backing the additional limitations. DeSantis was also questioned on the Board of Education’s proposal on slavery, to which he said:
“I didn’t do it, and I wasn’t involved in it.”
“But I think – I think what they’re doing is, I think that they’re probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into, into doing things later in life,” DeSantis said, referring to slaves.
“These were scholars who put that together. It was not anything that was done politically.”
Meanwhile, members of Florida’s African American History Standards Workgroup, William Allen and Frances Presley Rice, issued a statement in favor of the standards. The standards were defined as “rigorous and comprehensive,” with the most controversial update establishing that slaves learnt valuable crafts.
Face history, not forget it
On Friday, Kamala Harris urged Americans to address their past rather than ignore it.
“Our history as a nation is born out of tragedy and triumph. That’s who we are. Part of that is what gives us our grit,” she said.
“So let’s reject the notion that we could deny all of this in terms of our history. Let us not be seduced into believing that somehow we will be better if we forget it. We will be better if we remember.”