TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida's state Board of Education banned “critical race theory” from public school classrooms Thursday, adopting new rules it said would shield schoolchildren from curricula that could “distort historical events.”
Florida's move was widely expected as a national debate intensifies about how race should be used as a lens in classrooms to examine the country's tumultuous history.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared by video at the top of the board's meeting, urging its members, many of whom he appointed, to adopt the new measures he asserted would serve students with the facts rather than “trying to indoctrinate them with ideology.”
The Black Lives Matter movement has helped bring contentious discussions about race to the forefront of American discourse, and classrooms have become a battleground. Supporters contend that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race and that the country was founded on the theft of land and labor.
Opponents of critical race theory say schoolchildren should not be taught that America is fundamentally racist. Governors and legislatures in Republican-led states around the country are considering or have signed into law bills that would limit how teachers can frame American history.
Both sides accuse the other of politicizing classroom instruction and violating the free speech rights of countless people by limiting the allowable points of view.
Florida law already requires schools to provide instruction on a host of fundamentals, including the Declaration of Independence, the Holocaust and African American history, but the topics have often been muddled. Current events, including the killings of Black people by police, have intensified debates.
Some have called for a “faithful” interpretation of U.S. history that honors the founding of the country — as a rebellion against oppressive British rule. But some Americans — particularly Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans — argue that dissenting perspectives are often missing from text books and classroom discussions.