Florida’s ban on critical race theory raises questions on the role of education in addressing racism

By Lara Coiro and Samantha Soria

The Florida Board of Education voted to ban critical race theory lessons in the public K-12 education curriculum on June 10 at a board meeting attended by Florida educators, parents and community leaders.

The board passed an amendment that specifically prohibits critical race theory and the 1619 Project, a report initiated by The New York Times reframing American history from the arrival of the first slave ship to the country’s shores during the 17th century, from being taught in Florida public schools.

Critical race theory is a framework which analyzes the history of the United States through a lens of racial relations. It considers the long term consequences that white supremacy has had on the country, its people and its institutions. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attended the board meeting via Zoom to share his support for banning critical race theory because he said it had “no basis in fact.”

“[Critical race theory] is trying to create narratives that basically are teaching kids that the country is rotten and our institutions are illegitimate–that’s not worth taxpayer dollars,” said DeSantis in his statement at the meeting.

Rosen Gordon, a rising senior at FIU who is double majoring in women and gender studies and Latin American and Caribbean studies and former president of the Pride Student Union, believes that the ban is a cover for racism.

“The attempts to ban critical race theory in schools, particularly in K-12 schools, is ridiculous,” said Gordon. 

FIU professor Laura Dinehart specializes in early childhood education and said that the recent ban is an attempt to avoid conversations around the legacies of racism in American society.

Laura Dinehart
Dean Laura Dinehart

“It’s an effort to not talk about things that are really difficult to talk about. I think it is trying to create a world in which we keep pretending that everything is okay; that people are truly…treated equally, no matter their race or color,” said Dr. Dinehart.

Dinehart said that she believed the ban was politically motivated, rather than based on actual concern for students in public education. 

“I think the challenge is when we tell people what they can and can’t teach–and we do this in multiple ways…when we ban something like [critical race theory], we’re really setting a precedent for what the state is deciding people cannot talk about and cannot teach,” said Dinehart. 

Both Dinehart and Gordon agreed that K-12 classrooms were not actively teaching critical race theory, which is usually reserved for the college graduate level. But due to the country’s current social climate regarding race, it has become increasingly important to discuss these issues in educational settings.

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