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.
Florida’s education system exists to create opportunity for our children. 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. pic.twitter.com/ludv7ARgNP
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 10, 2021