Florida will teach its students that slavery benefited Black people

The Florida State Board of Education enacted new regulations on Wednesday that its detractors claim water down the importance of Black history.

As Florida continues to grapple with how educators approach Black history in their classrooms, new guidelines will teach its students that slavery benefited Black people.

According to The Washington Post, Florida’s State Board of Education unanimously approved new guidelines for public schools on Wednesday, stating that students should understand those held in slavery “developed skills” that “could be applied for their personal benefit.” 

The updated recommendations also advise educators to mention “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans” when discussing mob violence against Black communities.

Florida race teachings
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz speaks in January at a Jacksonville school. Florida’s State Board of Education unanimously approved new guidelines for public schools that will teach its students that slavery benefited Black people. Diaz contends the changes will make the curriculum more “robust.” (Photo: Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union/USA Today Network)

The school board concurrently moved forward on Wednesday with adopting regulations that comply with recently passed laws barring transgender students’ access to bathrooms based on their assigned sex at birth and outlawing the use of preferred pronouns in educational settings.

These guidelines represent the most recent step in Florida’s continuous discussion regarding how educators address Black history in the classroom, which includes the denial of an Advanced Placement African American Studies course because it lacked “educational value.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential contender, has backed several new regulations the state legislature has approved that change how delicate topics like race and gender identity are addressed in the classroom. He claims the laws remove “woke indoctrination” and give parents more control over their children.

The regulations restrict teachers from giving instruction that makes other students “feel guilty” because of acts performed by others in the past, and they forbid the teaching of critical race theory.

Critics claim the governor has effectively silenced already disadvantaged communities. However, the “parents’ rights” movement has hailed his work and demanded greater control over decisions like what books their kids may access at the library.

The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said the updated standards were “a disservice to Florida’s students and are a big step backward for a state that has required teaching African American history since 1994.”

At a meeting on education policy on Wednesday, education commissioner Manny Diaz said the revised Black history curriculum makes it more “robust.”

“I think this is something that is going to set the norm for standards in other states,” Diaz said, adding that Florida will keep “teaching the good, bad, and ugly of American history” in an age-appropriate manner.

Alex Lanfranconi, the state Department of Education’s communications director, reiterated Diaz’s comments on Twitter, saying that the new standards “teach it all” and that the general public shouldn’t believe the “union lies.”

However, critics call the new “benchmark clarifications” to the current Black history curriculum a “step backward” that will dilute history. The modifications include instructing elementary school students to “recognize Rosa Parks and Thomas Jefferson as individuals who represent the United States.” 

The FEA criticized the strategy, claiming it favors quick recognition and memory over more profound teaching of their “histories and struggles.”

Genesis Robinson, political director of the voter education organization Equal Ground, contended the new requirements demean people of color by omitting crucial lessons about Florida’s civil rights history.

“Black history,” he said, “is more than being able to identify well-known Black people.”

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