MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 19: A stop sign attached to a school bus is shown on April 19, 2023 in Miami, Florida. The Florida Board of Education today approved banning discussion in the classroom of sexual orientation and gender identity for all grades through 12th grade, an expansion of what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida Schools’ New Standards for Teaching About Slavery Are Beyond Despicable

The Florida education system is on fire. And I don’t mean “on fire” as in “on a roll,” unless that roll is a roll down into the gutter. I mean “on fire” in the way that burning piles of trash are on fire. It’s a nightmare. It’s a sh*tshow. It’s seriously screwed up.

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Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration has already championed banning classroom discussions and college degrees, and has now begun to set its sights on one of the central subjects of any American History class: slavery.

The Florida Board of Education recently approved a new curriculum for teaching middle school students about the “benefits” of slavery. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Middle schoolers will soon be taught that slavery provided a “personal benefit” to Black people because they “developed skills” while enslaved. Yes, you also read that sentence correctly. Hundreds of years of torture and forced labor were somehow a “benefit” to enslaved people according to the Florida education system. I highly doubt enslaved people or their descendants saw it that way.

To rub salt in the seeping wound, the Florida Board of Education also approved a lesson plan about the Ocoee massacre—a mass racial violence event perpetrated by a white mob against Black people—that teaches that the violence was in part committed “by African Americans.” An estimated 30 to 35 Black people were killed by whites in the “sundown town” in an effort to prevent them from voting in the 1920 Presidential election. The event has been called the “single bloodiest day in modern American political history.” The few white casualties occurred when a mob of about 100 white people attempted to attack Ocoee resident July Perry inside his own home. Perry began firing a shotgun in self-defense; he shot one man in the arm and killed two others who tried to break in through his backdoor. An injured Perry was taken to a hospital for treatment before being transferred to jail. During the transfer, a white mob attacked the vehicle. They took Perry and lynched him on a telephone pole by the highway.

A white mob then razed a Black community in Ocoee, setting fire to people’s homes. Black residents fought back with guns until the survivors were forced out of the town and into the surrounding marshlands. In the days and weeks following the massacre, over 500 Black people were forcibly driven out of town by enraged whites.

According to members of the Florida Education Board, their fictitious account of the massacre is “accurate.” MaryLynn Magar, a member appointed directly by DeSantis himself, claims that “the darkest parts of our history are addressed” in the new history standards. Opponents of the plan—including the Florida Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the state—were not convinced, with many critics saying that the history standards would teach children to “blame the victim.”

“When I see the standards, I’m very concerned,” said state Senator Geraldine Thompson at the board meeting. “If I were still a professor, I would do what I did very infrequently; I’d have to give this a grade of ‘I’ for incomplete. It recognizes that we have made an effort, we’ve taken a step. However, this history needs to be comprehensive. It needs to be authentic, and it needs additional work.” State Rep. Anna Eskamani concurred, saying, “I am very concerned by these standards, especially some of the notion that enslaved people benefited from being enslaved” in an interview with Action News Jax.

Members of the community spoke out as well. “Please table this rule and revise it to make sure that my history, our history, is being told factually and completely,” said community member Kevin Parker. “And please do not, for the love of God, tell kids that slavery was beneficial because I guarantee you it most certainly was not.”

The adoption of the new history standards are a win for the DeSantis administration, whose education system is effectively trying to whitewash American history in order to further spread the myth of American greatness. In DeSantis’ world, white students should never have to feel any sort of guilt or blame for the crimes perpetrated by their ancestors, so those crimes are to be struck from the historical record. Students of color will be forced to sit and watch as their ancestors’ history of suffering and oppression is effectively deleted as well. In an effort to combat the perceived ideological threat of “wokeness,” Ron DeSantis wants to reshape the history of Black and white communities on his own terms, by not teaching it at all.

(featured image: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)


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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.