Florida’s state school board on Thursday voted to ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools amid a push from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to eliminate the ideology from its classrooms.
During a meeting before the State Board of Education’s vote, some opponents of critical race theory said it is Marxist and should be blocked.
“We all know it’s a Marxist tactic to divide our country by class and by race,” said Bennett Brown, a Duval County resident and board member of the Florida Family Policy Council.
Brown said that teachers should instead teach “the truth and that the United States of America is a great and wonderful land with freedom for all.”
“Telling my child that they are in a permanent oppressed status is racist,” critical race theory critic Quisha King of Moms for Liberty in Jacksonville said during the meeting.
Opponents of the Board’s decision said during the meeting that DeSantis and Republicans are attempting to prevent schools from using critical race theory as part of a political strategy to gain votes.
“It’s an effort to whitewash, cover up and candy-coat history,” said Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville. “Allow teachers to speak the truth.”
The Florida Teacher’s Union president, Andrew Spar, also said he didn’t favor the move. Spar alleged that the change was not necessary because Florida teachers don’t use critical race theory in their curriculum.
But DeSantis countered Spar in the meeting with three examples of what he described as “attempts to teach [critical race theory] in Florida,” including one in Jacksonville, where the meeting was held.
After the Board’s decision, DeSantis hailed the move.
“Florida’s education system exists to create opportunity for our children. Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools,” he wrote on Twitter.
DeSantis also spoke to the meeting, saying that he doesn’t want children to not learn about the civil rights movement or slavery, but noted that some critical race theory proponents “look back and denigrate the Founding Fathers, denigrate the American Revolution.” He appeared to be citing claims made by the New York Times’ controversial “1619 Project,” which has been panned by historians as having false information.
Jacob Oliva, the head for K-12 education at the Florida Department of Education, said that the move to bar critical race theory is to ensure that teachers follow state academic standards.
“It’s important for us, or even imperative, to teach students how to think, not specifically what to think,” said Oliva.
Opponents of critical race theory say the idea that systemic racism permeates American life and American institutions is false and is tantamount to Marxist indoctrination. It’s also often associated with “cancel culture,” a form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles—online or in real-life—due to past comments that are deemed anathema to the mainstream.