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Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed a new role for Florida schools to not teach "Critical Race Theory." Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed a new role for Florida schools to not teach Critical Race Theory. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida bans teaching critical race theory as Governor Ron DeSantis eyes bigger political pies

The Governor, who has emerged as a frontrunner for Republicans in 2024 alongside Donald Trump, is going all in for the former president’s base.

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On Thursday, June 10, Florida adopted a new policy to prevent public schools from teaching “critical race theory” — the result of a push led by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis claims his intention is to prevent teachers from instructing students to “hate their country.” 

Critics of the new rule, as well as many of the speakers present at Thursday’s meeting in Jacksonville, said DeSantis and his GOP supporters are simply trying to hinder schools from properly addressing systemic racism and its impact on America.

Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, said he wants Florida teachers to be able to speak the truth.

“It’s an effort to white-wash, cover-up and candy coat history,” he said.

Speaking through a video connection, the governor told the State Board of Education that he’s not looking to eliminate topics such as slavery and the civil rights movement from the curriculum, but he wants to ensure that the narratives they hear are “grounded in facts.”

The board voted on the rule after hearing from the governor and more than 30 speakers. Florida now joins more than a dozen Republican-led states this year attempting to ban critical race theory from its schools.

Critical race theory, which began as a legal framework for examining the impact of racism on America’s institutions, is not a topic taught in Florida’s public schools, but DeSantis wants to make sure it is blocked. 

Critics of the theory often used the term broadly to describe all the school programs that teach anti-racism and emphasize diversity. 

Jacob Olivia, the K-12 chancellor at the Florida Department of Education, said the rule would make sure that teachers stick to the guidelines and standards provided by the state, rather than “going rogue” in their classrooms. 

The perspective frustrated many of the critical race theory advocates present at the meeting. 

“We will not allow you to call our history fake news because you can’t handle the truth. Black history is American history,” a community member from Osceola County told the board. 

In the minds of many of these advocates, DeSantis’ new rule is a sloppy yet dangerous attempt to push back against the growing calls for racial equity that have been occurring across the country since the death of George Floyd in May 2020. 

Several more advocates had their chance to speak, stressing that not telling children the full truth about the nation’s history does them a disservice. 

Critics of the theory believe that openly discussing racism, especially the role that our ancestors played in it, will divide us and lead students to resent their country. 

Wells Todd, from the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition, doesn’t see it that way. He pointed out that in his address, DeSantis did not mention the topics of reconstruction, lynching and segregation, all of which “should be taught.” 

“Teaching the facts will bring the country together, not divide the country,” Todd said.

Andrew Spar, president of Florida’s teachers’ union, said in a statement issued on Tuesday, June 8, that children deserve to know and explore the full picture of our shared history.

“Hiding facts doesn’t change them,” Spar wrote. 

The Florida Education Association called the proposed rule an insult to teachers as well, as stating that they are prohibited from “indoctrinating” students, which Spar and others said does not happen. 

Still, many local legislators and community leaders see this type of education as divisive, harmful and shame-inducing. 

Florida Citizens Alliance, a conservative group, has written on their website, “don’t let schools teach kids to be ashamed for their race,” urging DeSantis to ban it from all state schools. 

This type of response and mindset actually has a name, and it’s called white fragility. 

The term, popularized by a book by Robin DeAngelo, describes the defensive reactions of white people when their “racial worldviews, positions, or advantages are questioned or challenged.” 

Rather than openly and honestly engaging in anti-racist conversations and encouraging the youth of the nation to know, understand and atone for the oppressive history of America, critics of this theory choose to shut down and claim that learning racism is inherently divisive. 

Gregory Sampson, a high school math teacher from Jacksonville, believes that the governor is attempting to win political brownie points with Trump’s base so that he can take over the White House in 2024.

“I don’t think the governor and his fellow Republicans really understand what critical race theory does,” he said in an interview with The Sentinel. “It’s not a criticism. It’s a critique, a way of looking at how history has unfolded.”

Sampson feels that DeSantis, and most of his supporters, would prefer to return to a time when racism wasn’t discussed, especially not in classrooms. 

“That’s how it was in the old days, the days of segregation, Jim Crow, and unchallenged White Supremacy,” he wrote in a recent blog post.

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