Florida school district cancels professor’s civil rights lecture over critical race theory
By: April Carson
It's an example of how critical race theory has made it into Florida public schools, with a history professor charging Gov. Ron DeSantis of fostering "a climate of fear" as a result of his support for the ban.
The "critical race theory" ban in Florida is functioning as intended: it resulted in the cancellation of a civil-rights lecture, but Florida officials were free to act like that wasn't the objective.
J. Michael Butler, a history professor at Flagler College, was supposed to deliver a speech on "The Long Civil Rights Movement" to Osceola County educators, arguing that the Civil Rights Movement did not start or end with Martin Luther King Jr. but continued for decades on either side of the 1950s and 1960s. The event was canceled by school officials as a direct result of actions taken by Florida Republicans, including a state Board of Education prohibition on instructing "theories that distort historical events," such as critical race theory (CRT), which the board defined as teaching "that racism is not merely the result of prejudice, but that racism is entrenched in American society, law, and government." The Board of Education passed this resolution last year.
The lecture was to be part of an effort by the Osceola County School District in Central Florida to bring its curriculum into compliance with Common Core standards for language arts.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has also backed a bill that would allow parents to sue schools if they don't agree with what their children are taught about race and decide to refer to it as "critical race theory."
"We wanted to have a look at them ahead of time, given the current discussions in our state and community regarding critical race theory," Debra Pace, the superintendent of Osceola County Schools, wrote in an email to teachers who were planning to attend. According to the documents, school officials had only a brief summary of Butler's presentation, and "I am conscious of the possible negative distractions if we are not proactive in reviewing content and planning its delivery carefully."
"Florida's policy has us afraid to second-guess a history professor's history presentation to teachers, because it might contain anything that someone would describe as critical race theory.” And, more than likely, it would arouse racists who are out to deny the reality of racism with a presentation demonstrating the long-term significance of civil rights activism. And, after all, we're talking about a movement that has criticized children's novels based on specific events in the Civil Rights Movement as being too violent.
However, a DeSantis representative stated that the CRT ban was not intended to prevent law enforcement from doing so.
“Critical Race Theory and historical fact are two different things. The continuous attempts to deceive Americans by mixing the two are as ineffective as they are tedious,” she wrote in an email to NBC News. So, just to be clear, ‘mixing up teaching history with teaching CRT' is unethical.
Yes, I suppose so. It is, but who's doing it in legal terms after law and statement after statement, rebranding "critical race theory" as "anything that might make the most delicate of white people anxious?" That would be Republicans. Like Ron DeSantis. One person’s "theories that distort historical events" may be another person's carefully researched historical study documenting that the tales we've always been told about history are false or leave out important details of the tale.
The CRT ban, according to Butler, the historian whose presentation was canceled, "makes it so that any topic that falls under the rubric can be labeled as potentially dangerous race theory. The end result is that any teacher training or educational program can be stopped, delayed, stonewalled so that it never happens."
At least one local official agreed. “Because of the anti-CRT administrative order that is still undefined but promises to have significant ramifications if enacted, Florida school districts are in a critical situation,” Osceola County school board member Terry Castillo said. “School boards have been fined for obeying the governor's instructions on mask rules.”
“It's about putting the fear of God into teachers and administrators,” Jeffrey Sachs, a political scientist studying such laws, told Greg Sargent. “Teachers will avoid discussing certain issues entirely—those concerned with race, sex, or American history that as a society we might want to discuss.”
And that's precisely what's happening in Florida. The school district's fears of legal liability may be unwarranted, but the chilling effect is real.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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