One Pinellas County School educator said the new Civics and Government Standards “looks like it was written by three Proud Boys,” the far-right, neo-fascist political group.
BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer
PINELLAS COUNTY –Educators in Pinellas County encourage parents and stakeholders to familiarize themselves with the Florida Department of Education’s new Civics and Government Standards and respond to the public comment survey on the curriculum.
The public comment survey is open until April 23, and educators are calling it “biased” — with one educator going as far as stating, “it looks like it was written by three Proud Boys” — referring to the far-right, neo-fascist political group.
A PCS educator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, shared that although Florida was not one of the states that instituted the Common Core standards, there was still Common Core language written into the curriculum at the time.
“There are a lot of people across our state for whom Common Core was code for bad, liberal education,” shared the educator.
When it was time to revise the standards this spring, the legislature handed down a Civics and Government curriculum that was drastically different from the standards reviewed by teachers and staff during the last review period.
“They pulled in the input of teachers across the state, experts in their field, on how best to [revise the standards] and people within our district were part of those discussions as well.”
But, said the source, obviously, the revisions still didn’t please legislators and/or those tasked with preparing the new standards. So, “all of their input was tossed — and they were rewritten by we don’t know who.”
The source noted that there were eight new standards in the seventh-grade Civics curriculum alone that none of the experts submitted.
Who rewrote the standards was one of many questions submitted by educators during the Student Performance Standards Rule Workshop on April 9.
Another PCS staff member who also spoke under the condition of anonymity said they were told to put their question and comments in a chat; however, no one ever responded to them. Questions and comments can be read here.
Educators’ questions focused largely on perceived bias towards white historical figures without a diverse array of examples of “individuals that represent the United States,” references to American exceptionalism and what makes the U.S. better than other nations.
“American Exceptionalism is a loaded term,” the source shared. “It’s a term that’s being used by the right to try to keep the traditional narrative of American history, and they call it American exceptionalism because they mean that America does right and everybody else does it wrong.”
The source noted that educators “do not do that” — mandate one way of thinking or another – instead, they encourage students to think through issues by way of classroom discussion, which the new curriculum does not allow for.
Another issue raised was the repeated inclusion of religious education and Protestant ethics — a clear disregard of the law declaring the separation between church and state, as it imposes the issue of a religion – and one specific religion that may not be practiced by all students and or teachers — into public schools.
“In our seventh-grade Civics standards, we now have many references to being able to identify the impact of Judeo-Christian values and Mosaic Law,” said the instructor. But for students to identify the “impact that Mosaic law had on our founding fathers,” they noted, “means we have to teach them Judeo Christian values.”
References to holidays such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Labor Day were also stricken in favor of “American Founders’ Month” and “Celebrate Freedom Week” – holidays instituted in 2020 by the former president.
Additionally, confusing references highlighting “the influence of the Roman Republic on the American political process” and the origins of rule, including but not limited to “the Ten Commandments, the Code of Hammurabi and the Roman Twelve Tables,” are not only bizarre but shockingly misplaced under the topic of Civics.
Pinellas County School board member Caprice Edmond noted it’s possible that many parents and stakeholders weren’t aware of the new standards or that they would only have until April 23 to offer public comments.
“It does not seem like enough time because you have to consider that not everyone has the same awareness. You would need experts or people with experience to explain clearly why this [new set of standards] is problematic to those that might think they are a great,” noted Edmond.
Another Pinellas County school educator, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, is concerned that the new state standards will destroy all the hard work PCS has done to uphold the most inclusive and comprehensive Civics curriculum possible.
“I think that the proposed specific standards from the state are less inclusive than the ones that we had originally — less inclusive of the stories of all Floridians and their contributions to the civics that make America, America.” The educator called the new standards “politically motivated.”
Florida residents have until April 23 to offer public comment. Review the standards here, and find the public comment survey here. The new Holocaust standards have also come under scrutiny and can be viewed here; that public comment survey can be found here.
Educators’ questions from the April 9 Rule Workshop included:
- Who created the revisions to Civics standards? If it was an expert panel, what are the names of the individuals or organizations on the panel?
- If possible, I would like to see the names of the individuals or organizations that took part in the creation of the new Civics standards as well as the new Holocaust standards.
- Related to Civics, where is the diversity?
- Why is there religion mixed in with the 7th civic standards?
- Please remove references to religious values in Civics. There is no reason to include this except as trying to promote specific religions. There is no reason to include the 10 commandments and the Hebrew Bible and Judeo-Christian values and the Protestant work ethic (are we insinuating that other groups don’t have work ethics?)
- What will be the process when families challenge the religious injections into the Civics curriculum?
- Can we please add Labor Day, MLK Day, and other holidays to the patriotic holidays in the elementary Civics benchmarks?
- The inclusion of the 10 Commandments, Judeo-Christian values, and Protestant work ethic in the middle grades benchmarks also seem politically motivated and borderline unconstitutional. For example, for a student to “identify Judeo-Christian values in founding documents” (C.1.12) we must teach them Judeo-Christian values…This is a civics course, not history. The same clarification is found under the proposed benchmark 1.11 on Greco-Roman civilization.
- Andrew Jackson as a symbol for the state of Florida is divisive. Do we want to do that in our schools? (**Editor’s note: Jackson’s first initiative as president was the mass expulsion of Native Americans known as the Trail of Tears)
- Statement that ends with “distinguish the United States from other countries” is also confusing and seems politically motivated.