NAPLES, Fla. – Saying Florida needs to take the politicization out of its civics curriculum, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced a $106 million proposal to support civics literacy and civics education in public schools.
“Our schools are supposed to give people a foundation of knowledge, not supposed to be indoctrination centers, where you’re trying to push specific ideologies,” DeSantis said during a press conference in Naples.
The proposal will direct the Florida Department of Education to create the Florida Civic Seal of Excellence, a new professional endorsement for civics education. Teachers who complete the training will be eligible for a $3,000 bonus, DeSantis said.
“Let me be clear: there’s no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory,” DeSantis said. “Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.”
Former President Donald Trump, who has received support from DeSantis, has also attacked critical race theory, calling it “toxic propaganda” that will “destroy our country” as he ordered all federal agencies to stop funding any training that “teaches or suggests” that the United States is a racist country.
Some experts have argued that critical race theory, “which presupposes that racism is embedded within society and institutions,” is not propaganda but instead is “a toolkit for examining and addressing racism and other forms of marginalization.”
“Critical race theory ultimately is calling for a society that is egalitarian, a society that is just, and a society that is inclusive, and in order to get there, we have to name the barriers to achieving a society that is inclusive,” Priscilla Ocen, professor at the Loyola Law School, told Time magazine last year. “Our government at the moment is essentially afraid of addressing our history of inequality and if we can’t address it, then we can’t change it.”
DeSantis said the curriculum can create division.
“They’re trying to make people view each other based on race, I want to do the opposite, I want to treat people as individuals. I want to treat people based on character, but when you put this curriculum in, it ends up creating more divisions,” he said.
DeSantis said Wednesday that understanding the Constitution has become a “lost art” in recent years. He added that a lot of universities in the country “engage in these politicized academic fads and offer courses that reflect what’s is really ideology, not actual facts.”
“Having graduating kids with the foundational knowledge to understand what makes America unique understand the principles that people have fought for, is really really important and especially in a time where, you know, we have so much political bitterness,” DeSantis said.
The proposal would also dedicate $16.5 million for additional training, professional development and classroom support for principals and teachers seeking to elevate civics education in their schools. It would also include $6.5 million toward a career pathways program to launch pilots for public service incubators to develop partnerships between secondary schools and government institutions.
DeSantis said he is urging the Legislature to take up the proposal during the current legislative session.
DeSantis’ proposal comes weeks after a series of student-organized demonstrations in at least six Duval County Public Schools responding to the district’s “You Matter Month” mental health awareness campaign on what is normally recognized as Black History Month.
In addition to their opposition to the mental health awareness campaign’s placement on the calendar, the students used their platform to call on the district to place more emphasis on African American history in the district’s curriculum.
“We want more Black history to be in the curriculum, we want it to be more important,” Sandalwood student Milka Fanord said.
In Florida, schools are required to teach African American history “efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historical accuracy…”
The state’s K-20 Education Code lists the following among the list of subjects that are required to be taught: “The history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition, and the contributions of African Americans to society. Instructional materials shall include the contributions of African Americans to American society.”
DCPS spokesperson Tracy Pierce said critical race theory is not part of the curriculum in Duval schools.
News4Jax is still waiting to hear back from other local districts about the curriculum’s use.