Florida bans teaching of critical race theory (Update)

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Yesterday the Florida Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt new guidelines which effectively eliminate the ability to teach critical race theory or to use materials from the 1619 Project in Florida classrooms.

The amendment states topics must be “factual and objective,” and specifically prohibits “the teaching of Critical Race Theory, meaning the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.”

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.

The new guidelines make specific reference to the founding of the nation in 1776:

Instruction may not utilize material from the 1619 Project and may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence. Instruction must include the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments.

This seems aimed at a weak point in the 1619 Project, i.e. the claim that 1619 was the “true founding” and that the Revolutionary War was motivated by a desire on the part of slave owners to prevent their slaves from being liberated. A number of professional historians pointed out that this claim was not true. In fact, one historian revealed she was consulted about this claim by Nikole Hannah-Jones before the 1619 Project was published.

At one point, she sent me this assertion: “One critical reason that the colonists declared their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery in the colonies, which had produced tremendous wealth. At the time there were growing calls to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire, which would have badly damaged the economies of colonies in both North and South.”

I vigorously disputed the claim. Although slavery was certainly an issue in the American Revolution, the protection of slavery was not one of the main reasons the 13 Colonies went to war…

Despite my advice, the Times published the incorrect statement about the American Revolution anyway, in Hannah-Jones’ introductory essay.

The NY Times eventually reneged on the point and made a correction to the piece.

Gov. DeSantis, who spoke to the board before the vote, called CRT “state-sanctioned racism.”

Underlying some of this ongoing battle is the argument that critics of CRT aren’t really battling with CRT at all. This is something that Marc Lamont Hill argued in his discussion with Christopher Rufo. And Nikole Hannah-Jones made a similar argument Wednesday on Twitter:

I think the proponents of CRT are playing a game here. On the one hand they are certainly correct that a lot of people talking about CRT don’t have a deep understanding of what it is or how it arose (though that is changing). On the other hand, I think it’s undeniable that wokeism, or whatever you want to call the current ideology that arose out of CRT in the last few years, is a trojan horse for a lot of fundamental concepts about race, individualism, power, privilege, collective guilt, equity, equal opportunity, meritocracy, etc. that many Americans would disagree with. Suggesting, as Hannah-Jones does, that only subject matter experts be allowed to discuss it in public even as activists are trying to bring it into American Middle Schools is not going to work. The onus is on the woke revolutionaries to convince the rest of us.

Update: I meant to add this. From yesterday’s 4-hour meeting of the Board of Education.