MACCLENNY, Fla. – The hot button issue of critical race theory was a topic of discussion Wednesday when Florida Department of Education leadership hosted a public forum in Baker County.
The forum at Macclenny Elementary School was the third and final public forum on the recently revised drafts of Florida’s student academic standards in several areas that include civics and government, Holocaust education and character education.
The discussion comes ahead of a Florida Board of Education meeting Thursday in Jacksonville. During the meeting at Florida State College at Jacksonville, the board is expected to approve a rule change that will ban the teaching of critical race theory in Florida’s K-12 public schools.
Critical race theory examines how racism has led to laws and other policies that continue to negatively affect communities of color in America.
“A good example is when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas,” Education Week wrote. “Today, those same patterns of discrimination live on through facially race-blind policies, like single-family zoning that prevents the building of affordable housing in advantaged, majority-white neighborhoods and, thus, stymies racial desegregation efforts.”
Many people who spoke during public comment during the meeting at Macclenny Elementary felt that the theory should be included.
“I hope that we not only talk about slavery in our public schools, when that’s the only Black struggle we talk about, it makes people think that Black suffering stopped in the 19th century -- I think it’s important we talk about the systems that were put in place after slavery was abolished,” one person said.
“Just because some people want it to go away doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address it or discuss it. So what happens to the teachers that want to do that?” another person said.
Critical race theory has become a recent target of Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump.
During a segment last weekend on Fox News, DeSantis brought up the upcoming Board of Education vote in Jacksonville and his intention to ban critical race theory from schools.
“Next week I have my commissioner of education [Richard Corcoran] going to our Board of Education, banning it, banning any departure from accurate history, and following our standards,” DeSantis told host Dan Bongino. “This is something we’ve got to stay on the forefront of. We’re also, Dan, not going to support any Republican candidate for school board who supports critical race theory in all 67 counties, or who supports mandatory masking of school children. And so, as you said, these local elections matter, we’re going to get the Florida political apparatus involved so we can make sure there’s not a single school board Republican who ever indulges critical race theory.”
DeSantis has called the curriculum divisive.
Critics of the push to ban critical race theory from Florida schools have said it is an attempt to whitewash history and limit discussions about how race affects society.