New Florida Law Tightens Control Over History in SchoolsBreaking News
The most controversial passage states: “American history shall be viewed as factual, not constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable, and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” To that end teachers are charged not only to focus on the history and content of the Declaration but are also instructed to teach the “history, meaning, significance and effect of the provisions of the Constitution of the United States and the amendments thereto...” Other bill provisions place new emphasis on “flag education, including proper flag display and flag salute” and on the need to teach “the nature and importance of free enterprise to the United States economy.”
Unlike U.S. Senate version of the proposed new federal “Higher Education Act” (S. 1614) that seeks to define “traditional” American history, the Florida statute does not specifically define American history at all, rather, it describes what it is to include: “the period of discovery, early colonies, the War for Independence, the Civil War, the expansion of the United States to its present boundaries, the world wars, and the civil rights movement to the present.” Special provisions mandate the teaching of the history of the Holocaust, the history of African Americans, and Hispanic “contributions” to the United States. The role that Native Americans played in American history escapes mention. In highly prescriptive language students are to be taught “the arguments in support of adopting our republican form of government” as embodied in the Federalist Papers. The proscriptive language causes thoughtful teachers to wonder whether they are permitted to teach the line of reasoning advanced by the anti-federalists.
While the goal of the bill’s designers is “to raise historical literacy” concerning the documents, people, and events that shaped the nation, some history educators question the emphasis on teaching only “facts.” State Representative Shelley Vana, who also serves as the West Palm Beach teachers union president wonders “whose facts would they be, Christopher Columbus’s or the Indians?”
Theron Trimble, executive director of the Florida Council for the Social Studies, also questions the bill’s provisions that declares that teachers are not to “construct” history. Trimble asserts that “American history tends to get reinterpreted and re-reviewed in cycles...It’s a natural evolution, history is as changeable as the law.” Perhaps Jennifer Morely, an American history and government teacher, best summarized the concerns of her colleagues: “If you just require students to memorize information, that’s not the best way to create active citizens...we’re just creating little robots.”
The new law takes effect 1 July. Shortly thereafter, the state department of education will begin reviewing their standards and textbooks in 2007.
comments powered by Disqus
Jim Dudley - 8/7/2006
The passage if such a bill is a fool's errand. History is the discussion and interpretation of the 'facts'. What Florida is now required to do in highschool history classes is to teach chronology, unless there is a follow-on bill that will interpret these facts for everyone.
With such vague language this bill can only be of value when school administrations need to find some excuse to remove a teacher that they cannot otherwise fire. As for the longterm effect upon the student, it will be minimal. Most college freshman and sophomore history classes are already devoted to correcting the "facts" that are erroneously presented in highschool history.
However, it is unfortunate that with all of the problems in American public school education that any state legislature would find time to devote to those problems and then waste it on so pointless an effort.
- When Jim Crow Reigned Amid the Rubble of Nazi Germany
- Why Suburban American Homeowners Were Accused of Being a 'Profit-Making Cartel' in the 1970s
- Animals large and small once covered North America’s prairies – and in some places, they could again
- Library of Congress acquires major archive of African American photographer Shawn Walker
- A farm boy became a fearsome warrior at Iwo Jima. And he did it with a flamethrower.
- Trump and the Christians: Evangelical historian John Fea on decoding the great paradox
- Six historians weigh in on the biggest misconceptions about black history
- Renowned presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin finally takes on George Washington
- Legal Historian Jed Shugerman Says William Barr's Actions Are "Remarkably Not Normal"
- Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat Quoted in Washington Post Article on Trump's Quest to Rewrite History