Education board backs controversial history guidelines
Ron DeSantis. Image via Reuters.

deSantis reuters (Large)
The Governor wins another battle in the culture war.

Pandemonium and protests couldn’t stop Gov. Ron DeSantis from winning again Thursday in Jacksonville, where the Board of Education approved changes to civics education standards that are music to conservative ears.

The board voted after members of the public squared off on the rule, with some saying it would whitewash history and others saying it would prevent Marxist theory from being taught in Florida classrooms.

American history is to be defined “largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” Teachers’ apparent efforts “to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” will also be banned.

DeSantis has made a major issue of targeting critical race theory, which is based on the premise that racism is embedded within American society and institutions.

“Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools,” DeSantis tweeted before the vote.

DeSantis, appearing by video remotely from an undisclosed location, offered an attaboy to kick off the meeting.

“We have to do history that is factual,” he said.

“Toxic” critical race theory, DeSantis lamented, is “about trying to craft narratives about history” and is “not grounded in facts.” It is an attempt to “bring ideology and political activism under the guise of education.”

“We’ve got to have an education system that is preferring fact over narratives,” DeSantis said. “We need to be educating people, not trying to indoctrinate them with ideology.”

The Governor, near the end of six minutes of remarks, said that narratives “that teach kids that the country is rotten and institutions are illegitimate don’t deserve any taxpayer dollars.” Some of the crowd applauded when the video ended.

He offered yet more messaging reinforcing the rule change before the vote, in the form of a media release with another hot quote.

“The woke class wants to teach kids to hate each other, rather than teaching them how to read, but we will not let them bring nonsense ideology into Florida’s schools,” said DeSantis. “I find it unthinkable that there are other people in positions of leadership in the federal government who believe that we should teach kids to hate our country.”

The inevitable rule change was preceded by inevitable board accord and crowd discord.

Chancellor Jacob Oliva said that sometimes teachers present “false truths as parts of narratives in classrooms,” and said that the goal was to have lesson design align with state standards and instructional benchmarks.

The board was on board with that sentiment.

A split board adopted on voice vote an amendment that offered a ban of “fiction or theory masquerading as facts,” such as critical race theory. The new language included what sponsor Tom Grady called “hard truths” on issues like the Holocaust and slavery, as well as instruction on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, including the three amendments passed after the Civil War.

Grady said that is “far more important than 1619.” Some thought the amendment went too far, but in the end it became part of the rule.

The rule has spurred statewide controversy, with Grady saying members’ “inboxes were blowing up with comments from people.”

That was evident as board members listened to the public at Thursday’s meeting. Speakers on each side cited the need to teach historical facts — but clearly disagreed on what those facts might be.

Jacksonville activist, Ben Frazier, suggested the rule change was another sop to DeSantis’ long-rumored “presidential aspirations.”

Frazier started a chant — “allow teachers to teach the truth” — and then was ushered out by security, which ordered him onto his scooter to leave. But he stood one more time, leading a chant again and driving a call for recess.

The Florida Education Association preemptively balked at the rule change, saying it “appears to have a political rather than educational motive.”

Yet there was little intrigue as to whether this would pass. DeSantis declared it a fait accompli on Fox News last weekend.

“Next week, I have my Commissioner of Education going to the Board of Education banning it,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also vowed to get his “political apparatus involved” in defeating candidates who deviate from the soon-to-be-official position.

Candidates for 2022 office took notice, meanwhile, even before DeSantis’ remarks and the subsequent vote.

One current Duval County School Board member, Lori Hershey, offered comments supportive of the Governor’s position ahead of the meeting.

Hershey, perhaps coincidentally, is running for state House next year as a Republican.

Rep. Cord Byrd was among those who showed up. Byrd is one of three legislators seeking to fill term-limited Sen. Aaron Bean‘s seat after the 2022 election, and the invisible Primary is on. Rep. Jason Fischer, also running, offered support on Twitter.

This rule change was not the only DeSantis win in Duval County in June.

As Pride Month kicked off, the Governor signed a bill banning transgender athletes from girls and women interscholastic sports, using a Christian school on the Westside as a backdrop for the event, which included exclusive interviews with national conservative outlets after the formal remarks.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]


11 comments

  • tjb

    June 10, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    Will DeSantis be promoting eugenics in the classroom as a part of his platform for the 2024 presidency? Is DeSantis’s undisclosed location called Eagle’s Nest?

    Reply

    • Ron Ogden

      June 10, 2021 at 1:32 pm

      Hope you’re staying away from the peanuts, tj, That sight would be TOO comic.

      Reply

      • tjb

        June 12, 2021 at 9:10 am

        Ron, Did you burn any crosses last night?

        Reply

  • James R. Miles

    June 10, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    We can all rejoice in the continuing dumbing down of Florida public education by the GOP for the last 20+ years. After all, they don’t call this place Floriduh for nothing!

    Reply

  • logically speaking

    June 10, 2021 at 1:49 pm

    “that teach kids that the country is rotten and institutions are illegitimate don’t deserve any taxpayer dollars”

    Does that apply to governors and legislative members that declare without any evidence that the duly elected and sworn president is illegitimate as they were not elected properly? If so, I guess the state treasurer should cut the governor and legislature’s salaries off as they shouldn’t get any taxpayer dollars.

    Reply

  • Ron Ogden

    June 10, 2021 at 3:12 pm

    The proggies all have fallen in love with CRT because they think it is new. It AIN’T; it’s as old as Marxism–just a horse of a different color (ha-ha!). The same old class and generational conflict that has alleviated the boredom of the intellectual elites for a score of decades continues to this day except it is centered on race. Ron DeSantis has enough guts to fight Manhattan–and DC–and insist that it will not be hammered in the heads of our kids. Not on his watch.

    Reply

  • Frankie M.

    June 10, 2021 at 4:27 pm

    If appearing remotely from an underground bunker because you’re too scared to face your constituents in person is winning then what constitutes losing? If you’re scared say you’re scared. And he wasn’t the only one. The only black member of the hand picked board of education phoned it in too. Shocking isn’t it? Maybe next time Ronnie can do a better job of planning the logistics so he can get the faux & friends red carpet treatment?

    Reply

  • Cinforoso

    June 11, 2021 at 5:25 am

    DeSantis has the guts to call out BS when he sees it, and CRT is BS Democrat/Marxist indoctrination. Best Governor in the US.

    Reply

    • tjb

      June 12, 2021 at 9:12 am

      DeSantis is BS. He is only a politician playing to his base.

      Reply

  • George

    June 11, 2021 at 9:32 am

    As a trained historian, I know from three decades of experience that very few people have actually read the Declaration of Independence. Here are a few quotes from the Declaration. How will these ideals in the Declaration be taught?

    “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

    Merciless Indian Savages are the exact words used to describe the native American Indian tribes. This ingrained belief in “merciless Indian savages” set the stage for the Indian Removal Act which was but the latest incantation of a long genocidal effort to eliminate the American Indian from their ancestral lands so that they could be replaced by white settlers.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    The Declaration declares that all men are created equal with unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, at the time it was written, black slaves were denied the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They instead had their life and liberty dictated by those who owned them. This included beatings, rape, selling families to different masters thereby breaking apart family bonds, and even murdering those that they wished without so much as a sham trail. No slave was permitted the pursuit of their individual happiness either in that their owner dictated the choices of their life.

    The “merciless Indian savages” mentioned in the document were not affordable the rights of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness either.

    “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” No slaves ever consented to instuting a government which denied them the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Yet, this very document is destructive to these ends in so far as the slaves themselves were concerned. They never consented to it. They never were included in it. The very words written in the Declaration did not apply to slaves. As such, it was destructive to those ends for slaves on the very day it was written. According to the Declaration, because slaves were not affored the rights contained in the Declaration they held the right to alter and abolish it and replace it with a new form of government to effect their safety and happiness. Slaves had no safety or happiness under this document.

    While the universal principles contained within the Declaration are stated clearly, it is undeniable that they did not apply to anyone except for white male landowners. It did not include life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness for slaves, women or American Indians.

    Before anyone starts talking about what has been done since 1776 to extend those principles to all people, remember that the topic of discussion is how to teach about the Declaration as the founding principles for the Republic.

    Reply

  • JoAnne

    June 11, 2021 at 4:14 pm

    Go DeSantis. Reject CRT and wokeness. CRT is racist and Marxist.

    Reply

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