Florida’s war against free speech and the First Amendment continues with the news today that Florida’s Department of Education wants to ban the teaching of “social justice” in the state.
Florida made national headlines recently when 54 math textbooks were rejected due to “prohibited topics” and “unsolicited strategies,” leaving only one publisher left for textbooks in grades K-5th grade. That publisher is Accelerate Learning, based out of Houston, Texas, and, as it turns out, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia was the CEO of The Carlyle Group up until 2020, which is a global investment firm that acquired Accelerated Learning in 2018. Youngkin has also issued an executive order, similar to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE Act,” which sought to “end the use of inherently divisive concepts, including critical race theory.”
So what’s next on Florida’s censorship agenda? According to new guidance by Florida’s Department of Education, textbooks can no longer teach social justice. I’m not kidding, this is the actual text that the state has put out:
“Critical Race Theory, Social Justice, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Social and Emotional Learning, and any other unsolicited theories that may lead to student indoctrination are prohibited.”
So how does the state of Florida define social justice? The state provides three disturbing bullet points to guide its censorship of societal progress:
- Seeking to eliminate undeserved disadvantages for selected groups.
- Undeserved disadvantages are from the mere chance of birth and are factors beyond anyone’s control, thereby landing different groups in different conditions.
- Equality of treatment under the law is not a sufficient condition to achieve justice.
The guidance also attempts to whitewash the racist and oppressive history of this country by stating that lessons “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.”
Did those universal principles include the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of Black people to create an economy completely dependent on chattel slavery?
Publishers have until June 10th to submit social studies proposals. Considering Florida’s heavy-handed approach to rejecting textbooks for including “prohibited topics,” you can be sure that publishers will go even further than what’s outlined in the state’s guidelines in an effort to meet the new criteria.
Under these guidelines imposed on teachers, our textbooks can’t explain the true history of our country and the true root and systemic causes of inequality in this country. The list of topics prohibited also makes it clear that Florida classrooms can’t acknowledge that there are lasting effects flowing from the consequences of slavery, Jim Crow, and other forms of oppression in American life.
Putting on a blindfold and pretending like problems don’t exist doesn’t lead to their resolution. Unfortunately for us, DeSantis and his cronies don’t care about any of that, they rather stomp all over the First Amendment while throwing red meat to their extremist supporters for cheap political gain.
Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.