Press Release

AFT and FEA Leaders Criticize Florida Ban on Teaching About Systemic Racism

For Release: 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Contact:

Sarah Hager
202-393-5684
shager@aft.org

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram and Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar issued the following statements after the Florida State Board of Education unanimously approved an amendment banning the teaching of critical race theory in schools. The amendment also bans material from the 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning initiative by the New York Times that reframed American history around the date of August 1619, when the first slave ship arrived on America’s shores:

Weingarten said:

“Contrary to what Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis says, teaching America’s true history doesn’t teach kids to hate each other—it actually informs them, encourages them to think critically, inspires them to embrace tolerance and allows them to be more engaged stewards of our multiracial, multiethnic society. Teaching an honest account of our country’s past helps our students discern fact from fiction and build the skills to draw their own conclusions. As educators, we are facing the challenge of this complicated issue by developing nuanced professional learning opportunities and sharing vetted lesson plans—like those from the 1619 Project—to help educators tackle the hard conversations around our country’s history and its impact on today and tomorrow. It’s deeply concerning to watch this debate become yet another culture war, as states like Florida and governors like DeSantis try to pretend this history doesn’t exist, or that legislators should be the arbiters of what our kids learn in the classroom.”

Ingram said:

“When Ron DeSantis says that critical race theory is ‘based on false history,’ he’s not interested in really engaging in a debate about the past. He hopes that by simply uttering the words from his ivory tower, voters, anxious about threats to their identity and conditioned by the right-wing press, will rally to his side. The far right has weaponized the academic study of critical race theory and used it as a tool to silence the truth about this country. We’re essentially seeing a big government takeover of American classrooms.

“The reality is that deep-rooted racism in this country began long before 1776 and continues to touch nearly every aspect of everyday life for Black and brown Americans. It would be a disservice to the entire nation to deny children the opportunity to learn the real and often dark past of this country. Shame on the Florida State Board of Education.”

Spar said:

“Every day across our state, public school teachers are trusted to teach and care for Florida’s children. These teachers know that their job is to educate students in a way that imparts honesty, integrity, independent critical thinking based on facts, and the courage to do what’s right. To fully realize their potential, students must have these tools and guidance to face and understand our past and present in order to create a better future. The decision to ban honest history from our schools doesn’t give them those tools. Hiding facts doesn’t change them for the better. Give kids the whole truth and equip them to make up their own minds and think for themselves.”

 

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.