Opinion: Florida’s New Critical Race Theory Ban Debate and its Effect on Our Nation

The Florida State Board of Education voted on Thursday to ban public schools from teaching critical race theory.

The push was led by Gov. Ron DeSantis as a way to prevent history that would “denigrate the Founding Fathers” from being taught in state classrooms. DeSantis also said he wanted  to prevent instructors from “teaching kids to hate their country.”

The rule says in part: “Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, and 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.”

Tierra Broughton, a junior Marketing major at FAU, says, “I think this new ban on the teaching of critical race theory shows how higher officials have no respect or concern towards the issues of inequality and racism in America.”

Critical race theory is a 40-year-old idea that examines racial inequality in an effort to understand that it is about more than individual acts of racism. The idea is that students and teachers will have a deep awareness of how racist ideas and practices have been fundamental in shaping our society.

Across the country now , there are heated arguments in legislatures, board of education meetings, and PTA meetings about whether critical race theory has a place in education. Many have called critical race theory a broad convenience to attempt to teach the history of race and racism. Others feel that it Critical Race Theory will cause a retrograde back into racial segregation and essentialism. They claim that such approaches cause white students to be labelled “oppressors” and racists, damaging their self-esteem.

However, the intensity of the debate speaks to a very real and difficult question: What’s the best and most productive way to teach the history of racism?

We need to have the conversation first. 

Racial disparities can be defeated if we are willing to first acknowledge them. Then we can figure out how we can factor them into our problem-solving efforts to improve our nation.

Progressing past racism starts with education. How future generations of Americans understand the country’s racist history, systems, and institutions is crucial for racial progress. The idea that Critical Race Theory aims to teach students that some races are inherently racist is a cynical misrepresentation of the purpose and basis of critical race theory. Along with this, efforts to revoke class conversations about race will ultimately put educators in a difficult position. The newly adopted law will force many teachers to second guess whether they can lead students in conversations about race.

The board voted after hearing from DeSantis and over 30 speakers from both sides of the issue. Several people at the meeting chanted, “Allow teachers to teach the truth,” forcing a recess, The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville reported.

Several groups, including the Florida Education Association, a union that represents teachers across the state, opposed the rule change, saying it would do a greater disservice to students to cover up history.

Many of the speakers at the Jacksonville meeting said DeSantis and his GOP backers are trying to prevent schools from addressing racism and its effect on America and from teaching history that doesn’t focus only on white people.

Madyson Roye, a senior Nursing major at FAU says, “The fact that we only learn certain aspects of our history…the fact that we only get bits and pieces…that’s already damaging. But it’s even more damaging to completely take away all of that knowledge…to completely take away the fact that racism is a thing and all of the factors that play into it. I feel like when kids don’t learn the history or the reason why hatred is being taught, they will automatically accept hatred. If they don’t see the wrong in those actions, they’re going to take it for what it is.”

The truth of the matter is that ending efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in classrooms ignores the importance of these initiatives to overcoming racism and racial disparities in education and in our society. This is critical at a time in which the nation is navigating an important reckoning on the issue of race. Students should have these discussions so that newer generations of students will be able to learn and acknowledge how our actions can reinforce historical patterns. Policymakers should implement plans that are inclusive of all of the realities of our history, regardless of how uncomfortable they may be.

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