February 10, 2022

Alexandra Martinez: BIPOC educators say Florida’s Stop WOKE Act censors them from teaching history

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Writing for Prism, Alexandra Martinez talks to teachers about how Florida’s Individual Freedom Act will affect what they can teach. 

Teaching certain parts of history in Florida may be subject to a lawsuit next school year. Teachers in Florida face another set of legislation that will censor their work in the classroom. The Individual Freedom Act, which recently received approval from the state Senate Education Committee, will make it illegal for public school students to feel “discomfort” when they are taught about race. The legislation is the latest in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda against teaching Critical Race Theory, systemic racism in the U.S., and an accurate history curriculum. If the bills continue to progress and are passed by the state House and Senate, it will open schools up to lawsuits. In response to the latest legislation, teachers of color say they are concerned for the future of education in Florida and feel directly targeted.

“This law is very disturbing,” said Ms. B, a math teacher at a predominantly Haitian American public school in Miami, who always integrates different cultural practices to her math lessons.

Florida is one of 14 states in the nation that has already banned teaching the country’s history of racism from the classroom in the past year. Over a dozen other states face potential bans too. Conservative politicians have created a racist bogeyman out of the analytical framework known as Critical Race Theory (CRT), and have been relentlessly pushing against it since the 2020 police killing of George Floyd prompted a racial reckoning across American institutions. Conservatives and critics of the theory have willfully misrepresented CRT as a tool to villainize individual white people for being oppressors. In reality, CRT is a theoretical framework that analyzes the way race is produced and racial inequality is facilitated through U.S. institutions, laws and regulations. Florida’s latest bill will undo any progress that was done to confront the reality of the country’s foundation and development.

“I don’t know who they’re trying to fool, maybe the history books, because when we look back on this decades from now, this is going to be another period of time that Americans will yet again be ashamed of,” Ms. B said.

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