Mandatory moment of silence, civic education bills on fast track

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Two bills aiming to change the school year in Florida are back after stumbling at the legislative finish line last year.

The Florida legislative session hasn’t officially begun, but both bills are already moving forward in committees.

“This is a thing that could change the tone,” said State Senator Dennis Baxley.

Baxley wants to mandate a moment of silence at the start of each school day.

“Who knows what a moment of silence can do for each of us,” said Baxley.

But some like Devon Graham with American Atheists worry the mandatory reflection period could alienate non-religious students and religious minorities.

“Requiring a moment of silence sets up other people who do not want to take part in this for bullying,” said Graham.

Senator Jeff Brandes is pushing legislation that would direct the Department of Education to develop a civic literacy curriculum.

“It’s a non-partisan practical exercise,” said Brandes.

Textbooks wouldn’t be at the center of the program, instead, they would teach students by actually getting them involved in the political process.

“I really think of it as like the Eagle Scout projects of government,” said Brandes.

Students would have to identify a problem in their community and develop a plan to solve it.

“Through that exercise, they’re going to learn about how the city works or the state government works,” said Brandes.

Notably, they would have to research both sides and engage in civil discourse with those who hold an opposing view.

“These types of projects will thicken peoples’ skins. It will also teach them how to engage on social media and be able to kind of take some of the slings and arrows that come at you when you propose an idea,” said Brandes.

The civic literacy program would not be mandatory for schools, but those that successfully integrate it into their curriculum would earn the designation of a ‘Freedom School.’

Both bills died on the final day of the session last year after time ran out for a final vote.

With both coming up so early in the legislative process this year, their passage appears more likely.