New low: Florida’s revised Black history standards consider ‘the benefits of slavery’

Elementary students will be expected to identify leading figures of African American history but not learn about their achievements, teachers union charges.

Slavery was beneficial because the people enslaved acquired skills—that’s something Florida’s middle school students will learn under new African American history standards approved this week by the state’s board of education.

The new curriculum will also offer high school students a new perspective on the 1920 Ocoee Massacre, in which 30 Black Floridians were killed while trying to vote. The teachers must apply the lens of “acts of violence perpetrated by African Americans,” the Florida Education Association charged in a letter to the board of education.

Finally, while elementary students will be expected to identify leading figures of African American history—such as Rosa Parks, Zora Neale Hurston and George Washington Carver—they will not learn about their achievements, the union’s letter argues. Andrew Spar, the Association’s president, blamed Florida governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, who has famously called his state the place where “woke came to die” and championed the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law that restricted how schools can teach about LGBTQ issues.

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“How can our students ever be equipped for the future if they don’t have a full, honest picture of where we’ve come from?” Spar asked. “Gov. [Ron] DeSantis is pursuing a political agenda guaranteed to set good people against one another, and in the process he’s cheating our kids.”

But proponents, such as DeSantis school board appointee MaryLynn Magar, insist the standards developed by a state task force will give Florida’s students a complete understanding of African American history.

“Everything is there,” the Tallahassee Democrat quoted Magar as saying at a contentious meeting on Wednesday. “The darkest parts of our history are addressed … I can confidently say that the DOE and the task force believe that African American history is American history, and that’s represented in those standards.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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