by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When the government’s schools teach the nation’s history, politics is unavoidable. In a democracy, it is healthy to have such debates openly. What is not helpful is lying to the public about what is taught in schools. That is what Vice President Kamala Harris and others have been doing about Florida’s new curriculum standards for teaching African-American history, including the history of American slavery.
The new standards were approved by the Florida Department of Education last week as part of the state’s effort to free itself from the dictates of the College Board and other national groups pushing left-wing agitprop. They were developed in a series of public meetings by a diverse 13-member working group with six African-American members. These included distinguished scholars such as Dr. William B. Allen, professor and dean emeritus at Michigan State and former chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The standards were predictably opposed by the teachers’ union (the Florida Education Association) and the NAACP, which hyperbolically branded the standards “an attempt to bring our country back to a 19th century America where Black life was not valued, nor our rights protected.”
Harris, apparently taking her cues from the NAACP’s press release, went into full-demagoguery mode, claiming that “middle school students in Florida” are now required “to be told that enslaved people benefited from slavery.” Numerous supposedly respectable media outlets ran with headlines suggesting that Florida was attempting to teach that slavery was actually good for slaves.
This is nonsense. … [T]here are 191 items in the curriculum about slavery, segregation, and racism, on required topics such as “how slave codes resulted in an enslaved person becoming property with no rights” and “how the demand for slave labor resulted in a large, forced migration” within the United States. There is extensive instruction on the history and economics of the development of slavery, as well as abolitionism, slave revolts, and the Underground Railroad.