August 17, 2022

Jonathan Friedman and Polina Sadovskaya: Florida’s war on public education looks a lot like Russia’s

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Friedman and Sadovskaya are directors at free speech organization PEN America. They notice some unsettling parallels between civics education in Florida and in Russia.

This fall, a new set of education proposals will direct Russian schools to educate students in the Kremlin’s version of patriotism. Topics reportedly include “the rebirth of Russia as a great power in the 21st century,” “reunification with Crimea” and “the special military operation in Ukraine.”

President Vladimir Putin also rewrote Ukrainian history in the speech he gave just before Russia’s invasion in February; he and his allies have justified the invasion by framing it as a battle against so-called Western values, including LGBTQ rights.

Putin’s campaign to restrict history that can be taught in schools to the patriotic version the government endorses bears all the hallmarks of an authoritarian government intolerant of dissenting views. It also parallels ominous trends unfolding in our own schools, with the Sunshine State standing out as a prime example.

In the war against public education in America, Florida occupies the front lines.

Consider the recent turmoil in South Florida, where teachers raised alarms about a training program that purports to teach students how to be “virtuous citizens.” Teachers say the trainers promoted a vision of American history that downplayed slavery and claimed it’s a “misconception” that “the Founders desired strict separation of church and state.”

The civics-training controversy is just the latest chapter in a campaign that has spread across Florida to restrict what students can learn and read in schools. The state recently enacted four new laws that censor classroom subjects and ideas, including the discriminatory Parental Rights in Education law, more commonly known among critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. These laws are already creating worrisome consequences for students and teachers.

Read the full piece here at The Hill.

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