ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Some teachers say a measure approved by the state’s Board of Education on Thursday seeks to censor history, namely critical race theory.
What You Need To Know
- Critical race theory states that racism is embedded in legal system
- History professor says BOE seems to want to avoid parts of history
- Board of Education is expected to make a decision on this rule
History can be a subjective subject. That is why Orange County high school teacher Matt Panzano says social studies teachers like himself have to hold themselves to a strict code of ethics.
“I may have my own personal opinions, and I will keep those to myself,” he said.
That is why he says it is troubling to see the Florida Department of Education try to make social studies teachers leave out uncomfortable parts of American history, like racism.
“In speaking with colleagues and not just my own opinion here, we are all very uncomfortable with that,” Panzano said.
What makes them uncomfortable is language in an amendment to school districts’ Required Instruction Planning and Reporting rule approved Thursday.
It states in part that instructors “may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.”
“That is certainly part of the history, and that is taught in the classroom. We also cannot ignore every single aspect of U.S. history,” Panzano said.
Associate professor of education at the University of Central Florida Dr. Larry Walker says it seems the intent of this move is to force teachers to avoid teaching uncomfortable truths about American history, like critical race theory.
Essentially, the theory is that racism is a social concept and not created by a person’s bias or prejudice and that racism is embedded in the U.S. legal systems and policies.
“The language is far too narrow. There’s a discomfort when people have a conversation about relating to race in America, it seems like there’s a lot of erasure taking place,” Walker said.
Walker says if politicians mean to avoid having conversations about these topics in the classroom, then they should encourage teachers to be upfront about them, not gloss over them.
“While these truths may be uncomfortable, it is a part of our history, it is a part of how important it is to not only in terms of establishing a democracy, but maintaining and making sure you nurture democracy,” Walker said.
Spectrum News 13 reached out to the State Department of Education about this amendment, but no official has responded in time for this story.
Panzano says he believes if this passes, it could be a slippery slope to censoring other subjects.
“If you are only presenting certain facts, and not the actual whole picture, then that’s no longer a history class … that’s dangerous,” Panzano said.
The Florida Board of Education is expected to make a decision on this rule amendment at their board meeting Thursday morning. You can find the board's agenda here.