florida school curriculum to teach "slavery was beneficial"

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goldfish21
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25 Jul 2023, 4:45 pm

blazingstar wrote:
Bataar wrote:
Does anyone have any idea what the education will actually teach? I've seen this claim in several articles, but they never give any examples. Sounds like leftist propaganda to me.


Florida Curriculum

The part being discussed is the bottom of page 6 of a 200+ page document.

Quote:
SS.68.AA.2 Analyze events that involved or affected Africans from the founding of the nation through Reconstruction.

SS.68.AA.2.1 Explain early congressional actions regarding the institution of slavery (i.e., Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Three-Fifths Compromise, Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1808).

SS.68.AA.2.2 Explain the effect of the cotton industry on the expansion of slavery due to Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin. Benchmark Clarifications:

Clarification 1: Instruction includes the use of a map to show westward expansion. SS.68.AA.2.3 Examine the various duties and trades performed by slaves (e.g., agricultural work, painting, carpentry, tailoring, domestic service, blacksmithing, transportation).

Benchmark Clarifications: Clarification 1: Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit. 7


So, there's the spin they want to add. People were forced to learn skilled trades and work for free, so, since they could Possibly use those skills in their personal lives as well, ultimately slavery was good.. because we all know that if people weren't enslaved they would have never learned skills or anything. :roll: They'd have done paid work and had a regular life, probably in their homeland, and would have never had the satisfaction of forced labour for free that gave them skills they Could Possibly use for themselves as well.

Appears to be about as bad as the headlines are saying it is.


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25 Jul 2023, 5:22 pm

goldfish21 wrote:
blazingstar wrote:
Bataar wrote:
Does anyone have any idea what the education will actually teach? I've seen this claim in several articles, but they never give any examples. Sounds like leftist propaganda to me.


Florida Curriculum

The part being discussed is the bottom of page 6 of a 200+ page document.

Quote:
SS.68.AA.2 Analyze events that involved or affected Africans from the founding of the nation through Reconstruction.

SS.68.AA.2.1 Explain early congressional actions regarding the institution of slavery (i.e., Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Three-Fifths Compromise, Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1808).

SS.68.AA.2.2 Explain the effect of the cotton industry on the expansion of slavery due to Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin. Benchmark Clarifications:

Clarification 1: Instruction includes the use of a map to show westward expansion. SS.68.AA.2.3 Examine the various duties and trades performed by slaves (e.g., agricultural work, painting, carpentry, tailoring, domestic service, blacksmithing, transportation).

Benchmark Clarifications: Clarification 1: Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit. 7


So, there's the spin they want to add. People were forced to learn skilled trades and work for free, so, since they could Possibly use those skills in their personal lives as well, ultimately slavery was good.. because we all know that if people weren't enslaved they would have never learned skills or anything. :roll: They'd have done paid work and had a regular life, probably in their homeland, and would have never had the satisfaction of forced labour for free that gave them skills they Could Possibly use for themselves as well.

Appears to be about as bad as the headlines are saying it is.

Except no where does it state or imply that slavery was good.



goldfish21
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25 Jul 2023, 5:32 pm

Bataar wrote:
goldfish21 wrote:
blazingstar wrote:
Bataar wrote:
Does anyone have any idea what the education will actually teach? I've seen this claim in several articles, but they never give any examples. Sounds like leftist propaganda to me.


Florida Curriculum

The part being discussed is the bottom of page 6 of a 200+ page document.

Quote:
SS.68.AA.2 Analyze events that involved or affected Africans from the founding of the nation through Reconstruction.

SS.68.AA.2.1 Explain early congressional actions regarding the institution of slavery (i.e., Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Three-Fifths Compromise, Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1808).

SS.68.AA.2.2 Explain the effect of the cotton industry on the expansion of slavery due to Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin. Benchmark Clarifications:

Clarification 1: Instruction includes the use of a map to show westward expansion. SS.68.AA.2.3 Examine the various duties and trades performed by slaves (e.g., agricultural work, painting, carpentry, tailoring, domestic service, blacksmithing, transportation).

Benchmark Clarifications: Clarification 1: Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit. 7


So, there's the spin they want to add. People were forced to learn skilled trades and work for free, so, since they could Possibly use those skills in their personal lives as well, ultimately slavery was good.. because we all know that if people weren't enslaved they would have never learned skills or anything. :roll: They'd have done paid work and had a regular life, probably in their homeland, and would have never had the satisfaction of forced labour for free that gave them skills they Could Possibly use for themselves as well.

Appears to be about as bad as the headlines are saying it is.

Except no where does it state or imply that slavery was good.


Riiiiight, because there’s a different way to interpret the fact that they want to stress to young impressionable students that slaves got the benefit of skills.. dude, the entire point is to wash just how bad slavery was/is and discount the human suffering and inter-generational trauma that it caused.

Slavery wasn’t so bad.. look at the skills people gained! :roll: :roll: :roll:


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25 Jul 2023, 5:44 pm

Where are they going to use their skills? It's not like they can use their new skills to find new employment.


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25 Jul 2023, 5:51 pm

goldfish21 wrote:
Bataar wrote:
goldfish21 wrote:
blazingstar wrote:
Bataar wrote:
Does anyone have any idea what the education will actually teach? I've seen this claim in several articles, but they never give any examples. Sounds like leftist propaganda to me.


Florida Curriculum

The part being discussed is the bottom of page 6 of a 200+ page document.

Quote:
SS.68.AA.2 Analyze events that involved or affected Africans from the founding of the nation through Reconstruction.

SS.68.AA.2.1 Explain early congressional actions regarding the institution of slavery (i.e., Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Three-Fifths Compromise, Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1808).

SS.68.AA.2.2 Explain the effect of the cotton industry on the expansion of slavery due to Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin. Benchmark Clarifications:

Clarification 1: Instruction includes the use of a map to show westward expansion. SS.68.AA.2.3 Examine the various duties and trades performed by slaves (e.g., agricultural work, painting, carpentry, tailoring, domestic service, blacksmithing, transportation).

Benchmark Clarifications: Clarification 1: Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit. 7


So, there's the spin they want to add. People were forced to learn skilled trades and work for free, so, since they could Possibly use those skills in their personal lives as well, ultimately slavery was good.. because we all know that if people weren't enslaved they would have never learned skills or anything. :roll: They'd have done paid work and had a regular life, probably in their homeland, and would have never had the satisfaction of forced labour for free that gave them skills they Could Possibly use for themselves as well.

Appears to be about as bad as the headlines are saying it is.

Except no where does it state or imply that slavery was good.


Riiiiight, because there’s a different way to interpret the fact that they want to stress to young impressionable students that slaves got the benefit of skills.. dude, the entire point is to wash just how bad slavery was/is and discount the human suffering and inter-generational trauma that it caused.

Slavery wasn’t so bad.. look at the skills people gained! :roll: :roll: :roll:

That's entirely your opinion. No where does it state they're going to stress the fact that slavery provided skills. That's your opinion. By merely stating a fact that slaves learned skills is merely a statement of fact.



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25 Jul 2023, 6:09 pm

there is no reason on earth to teach impressionable youngsters that "slavery taught slaves skills" outside of the total brutal context of slavery. none.



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25 Jul 2023, 8:18 pm

auntblabby wrote:
there is no reason on earth to teach impressionable youngsters that "slavery taught slaves skills" outside of the total brutal context of slavery. none.

:chin:

UNLESS you wanted to wash history clean from it's true oppression and teach kids that white folk did coloured folk a favour by forcing them to learn whatever skills they wanted them to perform for them for free, yeknow, so it doesn't sound nearly as bad as reality actually was. That would be A reason..


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26 Jul 2023, 12:20 am

goldfish21 wrote:
auntblabby wrote:
there is no reason on earth to teach impressionable youngsters that "slavery taught slaves skills" outside of the total brutal context of slavery. none.

:chin:

UNLESS you wanted to wash history clean from it's true oppression and teach kids that white folk did coloured folk a favour by forcing them to learn whatever skills they wanted them to perform for them for free, yeknow, so it doesn't sound nearly as bad as reality actually was. That would be A reason..

i should have said "good reason..." :oops: I realize there are several BAD reasons and that the usual reactionary conservative crowd are gaslighting us about 'em.



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26 Jul 2023, 2:37 am

blazingstar wrote:
Bataar wrote:
Does anyone have any idea what the education will actually teach? I've seen this claim in several articles, but they never give any examples. Sounds like leftist propaganda to me.


Florida Curriculum

The part being discussed is the bottom of page 6 of a 200+ page document.

Besides the tone deaf one line with its lost cause talking point, I was taught a fraction of the material listed in that curriculum. And even for the topics I was taught this curriculum goes into much more depth about. If the curriculum is taught as listed students will come out way more knowledgeable about African-American history than I am today, never mind when I graduated high school.


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26 Jul 2023, 5:41 am

auntblabby wrote:
when this country splits apart, i have a strong feeling the southern states will reinstitute slavery, as they will no longer be restrained by the national constitution forbidding it.

That's absurd and never going to happen.

Also, slavery was never really abolished, it just took a new form, being a wagecuck is just a more "civilized" form of the plantation.


Misslizard wrote:
Slavery never ended.People all over the world are bought and sold everyday.
It’s not just the slave owner who is guilty, the person who sold the slave AND the people that buy the goods knowingly.
The North didn’t condone slavery, but they had no problem buying the cotton for the textile mills.How many of them got rich and never owned a slave?They knew where the product came from and didn’t care.


That's not very nice to say about Northeners, a lot of them fought and died to end slavery.



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26 Jul 2023, 5:45 am

Anyway, this confirms my theory of heat delusion, all the heat and the humidity making humans behave more irrationally. Also they have a lot of hurricanes there



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26 Jul 2023, 9:15 am

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/story/new ... 455652007/

Quote:

Helping DeSantis ease white-student discomfort: Top-10 advantages of slavery to slaves


...DeSantis has staked his teetering political reputation on eliminating “woke” education in Florida’s public schools.

He championed a law that prohibits Florida teachers bringing up classroom discussions about America’s racial history that can cause white students to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress” about their race.

When signing what was originally cast as the Stop WOKE Act, DeSantis said that no student should be “shamed because of their race.”

“In Florida, we will not let the far-left woke agenda take over our schools,” he said....

... “The idea of Black Americans who ‘developed skills’ thanks to enslavement, for example, erases at the most basic level that the history of cattle farming, river navigation, rice and indigo cultivation, southern architecture, music, and so on in this country depended on the skills and traditions of African people.”

DeSantis’ rocky response was made worse by the Florida Department of Education, which in a ham-handed attempt to do damage control, sent out a release naming 16 historic figures as blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors and fishing and industry workers who “developed highly specialized trades” during their days as Black slaves.

But it turned out about half the people listed were never slaves, and some who were slaves had learned their trade when they were not enslaved.

Oops. Florida’s Department of Education “parlayed” an egg.

“They just threw out a bunch of names to make it seem like something good came of (slavery)," Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association teacher’s union told the Tampa Bay Times. “The reality of it is, the facts don’t back up what they are saying.”

This is creating a void in the all-important task of recasting history to soothe potential white guilt in Florida.

We’re going to need a more full-throated response in defending Florida’s new lessons in teaching the benefits of slavery to slaves.

ortunately, I’m a full-service Florida columnist who is willing to pick up the slack and do whatever I can to make white students feel better about our racial history. So here goes:

The Top 10 benefits of slavery to slaves in the United States:

1. Free Vitamin D

All that outdoor labor in the fields provided lots of Vitamin D, an essential vitamin that wards off cancer growth, controls infections, reduces inflammation and helps the body retain calcium and phosphorous, important for building strong bones. You’re welcome, slaves.


2. Daily choir practice

Long days of monotonous labor meant plenty of time to work on the harmonies to spirituals. More reasonable working hours would have hurt the quality of the music.


3. Job security

Lots of available work. No need to worry about unemployment or to harbor feelings of uselessness when you were needed sunup to sundown from childhood to old age.


4. Free lodging

Slaves got to live rent-free on the plantation.


5. Physical fitness opportunities galore

No need for gym memberships, pilates classes, or step aerobics. Slaves got plenty of daily exercise, especially those trying to run away.


6.Networking for young Black women

Cynics may characterize the nocturnal visits of the white plantation owners as “rape,” but I’m sure the Florida Board of Education can come up with a more upbeat term, perhaps “involuntary sudden-courtship opportunity sessions.”


7. Participation in an efficient criminal-justice system

White students will just feel bad if we call them thousands of “lynchings.” It’s better to cast this fast-moving form of trial and sentencing as a marvel of jurisprudence that stands today as a benchmark of speedy-trial scheduling.


8. Opportunities to make new friends

With many slave families being split up on different plantations, spouses and children frequently were kept from each other. This opened the door to new relationships.


9. Black lives mattered

They certainly mattered to the cotton industry, which relied on unpaid Black slaves in the United States to pick more than 2 billion pounds of cotton per year — two-thirds of the global supply — by 1860.


10. Juneteenth

If it weren’t for slavery, we wouldn’t have the day that celebrates the end of slavery, Juneteenth, as a federal holiday on June 19 every year. Many of today’s Black Americans get a day off on Juneteenth for the generations of degradation and involuntary servitude that were experienced by their ancestors...


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26 Jul 2023, 9:19 am

Lecia_Wynter wrote:
That's not very nice to say about Northeners, a lot of them fought and died to end slavery.

Yes they did, but slavery was really big there also.


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28 Jul 2023, 9:07 pm

Most of Florida work group did not agree with controversial parts of state's new standards for Black history, members say

Quote:
A majority of the members of the Florida work group that developed new standards for teaching African American history opposed the sections that have recently drawn criticism, including that middle schoolers be instructed that enslaved people developed “skills” that could be used for their “personal benefit,” three members of the work group said.

The members, who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal, told NBC News that the majority did not want to include that change or a requirement that high school students be taught about violence perpetrated “by African Americans” when learning about events like the Ocoee and Tulsa Race massacres.

“Most of us did not want that language,” one member said, adding that two of the 13 members of the group pushed to include those specific items.

The standards created by the work group went on to be unanimously approved on July 19 by the Florida Board of Education, which oversees the Education Department. The standards, which are to be used by students in kindergarten through 12th grade, have been widely criticized as “propaganda” and a “sanitized“ version of history.

The work group members who spoke to NBC News said that only two members of the work group, William Allen and Frances Presley Rice, advocated for the criticized language. Allen and Presley Rice, both Black Republicans, released a joint statement last week defending the new standards as “comprehensive and rigorous instruction on African American history.”

“The intent of this particular benchmark clarification is to show that some slaves developed highly specialized trades from which they benefitted,” they wrote. “This is factual and well documented.”

The members said Allen advocated for including that enslaved people benefited from skills that they learned, and Presley Rice pushed to include that students learn about “violence perpetrated against and by African Americans.”

“People were very vocal” and questioned “how there could be a benefit to slavery,” one work group member said about the language.

Allen, the member said, countered the arguments by using Frederick Douglass as an example.

“However, Dr. Allen is focusing on the few slaves who actually did learn something and keeps alluding to Frederick Douglass,” one work group member said. “What he is saying is not accurate for most of the slaves.”

Education Department mum on work group details
The revelations about the group’s inner workings come as the state maintains a lack of transparency around the work group.

The Education Department has not responded to repeated requests to identify the members of the work group nor has it disclosed how they were selected or detailed how they came up with the new language.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, has defended the new standards while also distancing himself from the creation of the changes, which were made to satisfy legislation he signed into law.

“You should talk to them about it,” he said, referring to the group, at an event last week. “I didn’t do it. I wasn’t involved in it.”

DeSantis said he believed “what they’re doing is, they’re probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life.”

The names of the 13 work group members were confirmed to NBC News by two members of the group who asked to remain anonymous.

They are William Allen, LaFrance “Joe” Clarke Jr., Allison Elledge, Kathleen Ems, Roberto Fernandez III, Madonna Higgs, Helen Maffett, Jessica Morey, Kay Pape, Frances Presley Rice, Valencia Robinson, Constance Scott and Laura Wynn.

The group is racially and politically diverse. At least 10 of the members of the work group are teachers or other officials in Florida public schools, making Allen and Presley Rice outliers.

Allen, who lives in Maryland, is a professor emeritus of political science at Michigan State University. He was on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under Ronald Reagan. Presley Rice, on her LinkedIn page, describes herself as an "independent consultant, providing advice about the production of African American History documentary production."

Paul Burns, the state’s chancellor of public schools, said at the Board of Education’s July meeting that 40 people responded to an August 2022 memo seeking "qualified individuals for a workgroup to review the standards related to African American History." The board also received nominees to the work group from the Commissioner of Education's African American History Task Force, Burns said.

Thirteen "education stakeholders, including Florida teachers from around the state" were ultimately selected for the work group, he told the board. It is not clear on what criteria the applicants were evaluated.

[/b]Task force not consulted on new standards[/b]
While most members of the group have kept a low profile, Presley Rice and Allen have spoken out.

“Any attempt to reduce slaves to just victims of oppression fails to recognize their strength, courage and resiliency during a difficult time in American history,” they said in a joint statement after criticism began to mount last week. They mentioned blacksmithing, shoemaking, fishing, teaching and tailoring as examples of skills enslaved people developed. “Florida students deserve to learn how slaves took advantage of whatever circumstances they were in to benefit themselves and the community of African descendants.”

In a post on her Facebook page Saturday, Presley Rice said: “It saddens me to observe how falsehoods are being perpetuated now by some people with questionable intent, using cherry-picked language, taken out of context, to undermine the fact-based Academic Standards crafted by the Workgroup I was a part of, due to my decades-long quest to have the full, unvarnished history told about African Americans.”

In an interview with NBC News earlier in the week, Allen said the work group “deliberated between February and the end of April to review the curriculum standards and to propose new benchmarks and standards.”

"I think we may have had, over the course of the period from February to April, three or four meetings," he said, adding that each meeting took place over several days at Education Department facilities in Tallahassee.

The individuals who spoke to NBC News said some of the meetings were held over Microsoft Teams and that the entire panel did not attend every meeting. They also did not devise the standards in conjunction with the Commissioner of Education’s African American History Task Force, which was created in 1994 as part of legislation that requires the instruction of history, culture, experiences and contributions of African Americans in the state’s K-12 curriculum.

“Most people think that we work on behalf of the African American History Task Force and that wasn’t the case,” the member said. “It was two separate groups.”

State Sen. Geraldine Thompson, who opposes the new standards, said in an interview with NBC News that she had been involved with the African American History Task Force for decades, but was not aware that there was a work group.


Black Republicans rebuke Ron DeSantis over Florida history standards about slavery
Quote:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing criticism from the majority of the Black Republicans serving in Congress for new public school standards that teach that some Black people benefited from slavery because it taught them useful skills.

Reps. John James of Michigan and Wesley Hunt of Texas became the latest to speak out on Friday. James tweeted his disapproval, saying that “nothing” about slavery was a “net benefit” to his ancestors.

James and Hunt are two of the five Black Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate, and they are both backing one of DeSantis' rivals, former President Donald Trump, in the 2024 presidential race.

"As the direct descendent of a slave, I have a hard time understanding Governor DeSantis’ position that transferrable skills learned in bondage are somehow a net benefit," tweeted Hunt.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican in the Senate, also rebuked DeSantis on Thursday.

"As a country founded upon freedom, the greatest deprivation of freedom was slavery. There is no silver lining … in slavery," Scott — like DeSantis, a GOP presidential candidate — said here in response to a reporter's question after a forum with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

"What slavery was really about was separating families, about mutilating humans and even raping their wives. It was just devastating," Scott said. "So I would hope that every person in our country — and certainly running for president — would appreciate that. People have bad days. Sometimes they regret what they say. And we should ask them again to clarify their positions."

And Rep. Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida who has also endorsed Trump, earlier this week called on the state Education Department to “correct” the new standards.


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28 Jul 2023, 9:36 pm

Somehow, the term "Floridiots" comes to mind.


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29 Jul 2023, 5:47 am

Distortions and dumbness on both sides by Cathy Young for The Bulwark

Quote:
LET’S START WITH THE OBVIOUS: Slavery is not a “both sides” or a “yes, but” question. While one may debate specific issues—was it an integral part of the American founding or a pernicious legacy of the British colonial system?—none of that changes the fundamental fact: The ownership and trafficking of human beings was an atrocity, a stain on a country that proclaimed liberty to be its foundational principle.

On the other hand, the flap over the newly approved Florida school standards for the teaching of African-American history is a “both sides” story, and one in which neither side looks very good. Not only the left but mainstream liberals—including major media outlets and Vice President Kamala Harris—joined in a frenzy of denunciations over a line very misleadingly summarized as a claim that “enslaved people benefited from slavery” because some of them learned useful work skills. But while the Florida curriculum doesn’t say that, or suggest that American slavery was not so bad, it does have very real problems. What’s more, Harris’s essentially false and inflammatory accusation was matched by an incredibly ham-fisted response from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and an apparent major stumble by the standards’ principal authors.

Add to this a lot of all-around self-beclownment in the media, and it’s “The Culture Wars Make Everyone (and Everything) Dumber,” Chapter Eleventy-Thousand Eleven.

SO WHAT DOES Florida’s new African-American history curriculum, approved by the state board of education on July 19 as part of a larger set of social studies curricular standards, actually say? (While some commentators have claimed that the disputed line has been picked out of 216 pages of text, this is the length of the entire document, including dual listings of the same items; the African-American history strand per se is about 20 pages.) Read in its entirety, this curriculum certainly doesn’t suggest slavery apologia. Some of the material that compellingly exposes racial oppression in American history may not be immediately apparent because it hides behind the dry names of laws and codes. For instance, a high school unit on the development of labor systems in colonial America has a “clarification” noting, “Instruction includes the Virginia Code Regarding Slaves and Servants (1705).” This code (actually named “An act concerning Servants and Slaves”) makes starkly clear the establishment of an oppressive racial hierarchy: Indentured servants, nearly always white, have certain rights and protections as well as the prospect of eventual freedom; slaves, nearly always black, are stripped of all rights. Even the killing of a slave by a master has no consequences if it’s blamed on the slave resisting “correction.”

Another new curriculum unit, which focuses on “how conditions for Africans changed in colonial North America from 1619-1776,” includes “clarifications” that the lessons must include the development of slave codes and “how slave codes resulted in an enslaved person becoming property with no rights.” Several units focus on slave revolts and how “slave codes were strengthened in response to Africans’ resistance to slavery.” There are also discussions of the passage from Africa, of “harsh conditions and their consequences on British American plantations,” of how the Founding-era legislation and the Constitution dealt with slavery, and of nineteenth-century efforts to aid fugitives from slavery and the South’s attempts to stop these efforts. Several units focus on abolitionist narratives by former slaves, including Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass—narratives from which no sane person could come away with the impression that there was anything benevolent about American slavery. (Sojourner Truth endured brutal beatings and rapes before she gained her freedom.)

So what’s that controversial line—a “clarification” requiring students to be taught about “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit”—doing in there?

It is clear that the intent of the unit in which the disputed line appears is to show the wide range of jobs performed by slaves, countering the common assumption that they were all either field hands or domestic servants. Such information is already commonly found in educational texts. The “personal benefit” line is presumably intended to convey that sometimes slaves also managed to use those skills for themselves: to earn a living if they gained their freedom, or even, on occasion, to free themselves. Enslaved skilled workers hired out by their owners were sometimes able to keep and save enough of their earnings to buy their freedom. While some left-leaning polemicists in the brouhaha over the Florida standards dismissed this scenario as a fantasy, it did happen—albeit rarely, and despite formidable obstacles.

According to a statement from two members of Florida’s all-volunteer African American History Standards Workgroup—Michigan State University professor emeritus and former U.S. Civil Rights Commission chairman William B. Allen and lawyer/author Frances Presley Rice—the “clarification” is intended to underscore the “strength, courage and resiliency” of African Americans rather than “reduce slaves to just victim of oppression.” Or, to put it differently, it’s a way to emphasize the agency of the enslaved, the standard perspective in progressive scholarship in recent decades.

Incorporating such a framework into lessons for kids can be dicey: one has to walk a fine line between presenting slaves as just victims and implying that slavery wasn’t so bad.

Arguably, the passage in the Florida curriculum was clumsily worded. But to render it as “slaves could benefit from being enslaved” or “slavery helped slaves develop useful skills” is an extremely tendentious reading, or even misreading: the reference is to benefiting from skills, not from slavery. (If an article says that some cancer survivors have had their lives enriched by the interests and hobbies they developed as a coping strategy during treatment, that’s not tantamount to saying that cancer enriched their lives.) Surely, the more plausible meaning is that some slaves used their resourcefulness, talent, and tenacity to make the best of a terrible, oppressive situation.

The remarkable life of abolitionist and author Moses Grandy illustrates this point. Born into slavery around 1786, he was hired out starting at the age of 10 to employers who would sometimes beat him and half-starve him. Nevertheless, Grandy managed to become a highly skilled boat navigator and eventually a captain and was able to keep a portion of his earnings.
By the time he gained his freedom, he had suffered unimaginable heartbreak, losing his father, his beloved first wife—who was literally snatched away before his eyes—and at least five children to legalized human trafficking.

To suggest that Grandy benefited from slavery would have been obscene.

TO A LARGE EXTENT, the outrage over that one line in the Florida curriculum rests on the knee-jerk assumption that it must be intended to justify white supremacy, because . . . well, because it comes from Ron DeSantis and the Florida Republicans.

Yet the truth is that you can easily find passages in blue-state African-American history curricula that, if taken out of context and prejudged as slavery apologetics, could trigger outrage.

So yes, conservatives have a point when they charge that the Florida curriculum, compiled by a 13-member workgroup that reportedly includes six black Americans, is being unfairly maligned and demonized. The Florida curriculum is not a rehash of the learning materials often used in the South until recently that portrayed American slavery as relatively benign and stressed quasi-familial devotion between slaves and masters; to the extent that it tries to be “positive,” its positivity chiefly resides in its heavy focus on abolitionism and on the accomplishments of free blacks. Nor is it an attempt to whitewash, as it were, Jim Crow (there are units focusing on the post-Reconstruction disenfranchisement of newly emancipated blacks and on white resistance to black equality, including the Ku Klux Klan, and African Americans’ struggle against racism). The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s is celebrated to such an extent that a guidance for second graders names “Rosa Parks and Thomas Jefferson” as “individuals who represent the United States”—an odd pairing, but certainly not one coming from an anti-civil-rights mindset. It’s not only conservatives who have criticized the tempest over the line about “skills” as excessive and misplaced; such critics also include, for instance, liberal blogger Kevin Drum.

That said, the curriculum does have its issues. As Drum points out, it definitely deemphasizes the brutality of slavery; there is no mention of the wrenching and fairly common practice of family separation, of the ever-present threat of physical punishment, or of the widespread sexual exploitation of female slaves. One could counter that many of these things are covered by the materials whose study is required in the curriculum, such as the ex-slave narratives and the slave codes that prescribe punishment by whipping for various infractions (and, as previously mentioned, essentially legalize the murder of the enslaved). But it’s worth noting that while the curriculum has many “clarifications” that mention the study of specific topics—such as the use of work skills for “personal benefit”—there are no such items mandating discussion of sexual violence, surely an age-appropriate subject for high school students, or of the forcible disruption of families. Likewise, lynchings are mentioned in only one unit on the “emergence, growth, destruction and rebuilding of black communities during Reconstruction and beyond.” The same unit, by the way, contains a “clarification” line that really does legitimately raise eyebrows:

Instruction includes acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans but is not limited to 1906 Atlanta Race Riot, 1919 Washington, D.C. Race Riot, 1920 Ocoee Massacre, 1921 Tulsa Massacre and the 1923 Rosewood Massacre.

"All the events listed here are violent assaults against African Americans. Just what “against and by” is supposed to mean is unclear; if it’s a reference to black self-defense against racial terrorism, then it’s either mind-boggling sloppiness or truly appalling moral equivalency."

Blogger Josh Marshall has also noted that the curriculum strongly emphasizes what he calls “other societies that practiced slavery and other places where slavery was arguably worse”—such as the existence of slavery and the slave trade in Africa before the European slave trade began, as well as slavery in the Caribbean islands (where labor was much harder and mortality rates were staggering) and in Central and South America. As Marshall notes, all of this is factual. Teaching these facts is valid; many young progressives raised on modern anti-racist activism seem to believe that slavery makes the United States uniquely evil, or that white people invented slavery. It’s important to put American slavery in global perspective (in which it is sometimes less and sometimes more inhumane than other forms of enslavement). But it’s also important to do so in a context that doesn’t lend itself to an “it wasn’t so bad” message.

One may add that while the Florida curriculum wants to spread the blame for slavery, it doesn’t want to spread the credit for its abolition: the British abolitionist movement and its role in ending the slave trade rate no mention, and neither does the abolition of slavery in the British colonies thirty years before the American Civil War.

In other words, while this is not a curriculum that justifies or denies slavery or white supremacy, it is definitely one that tends to accentuate the positive in African American history, and more generally American goodness: abolition, the civil rights movement, the lives of free blacks, thriving and self-sufficient black communities, African-American heroes and cultural figures. Of course those are important things to learn; but such an approach can also result in a skewed rosy picture that reduces the oppression and atrocities to “bad stuff happened, but let’s look at how we got over it.” Yes, it’s pushback against a tendency on the left to treat racism and the legacy of slavery as America’s defining features; but it’s an overcorrection.

Lastly, on at least one occasion, the Florida curriculum takes a dive into blatant partisanship. In a high school unit on “the politicians and political figures who advanced American equality and representative democracy,” a “clarification” on “political figures who shaped the modern Civil Rights efforts” offers the following examples: “Arthur Allen Fletcher, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson, President Richard Nixon, Senator Everett Dirksen, Mary McLeod Bethune, Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, Representative John Lewis.” Even leaving aside the Republican/Democrat balance on this list: I’m sorry, but Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele?

To these problems, one can also add an apparent, stunning faux pas by Allen and Rice in their response to the critics of the curriculum. As a partial justification for the contested clause about some slaves developing skills from which they benefited, Allen and Rice listed examples of black Americans who supposedly did exactly that: used skills they learned while enslaved. Yet debunkers were quick to point out that nearly half of the people on the list had never even been slaves.

LASTLY, THERE IS THE ROLE played in this controversy by Ron DeSantis, who, as writer Nick Catoggio points out, is a lightning rod for a reason. Even many people who heartily dislike “woke” progressivism cringe at his blatantly opportunistic “anti-woke” crusade that is every bit as self-righteous, ideologically crude, and prone to bullying as a lot of “woke” zealotry. What’s more, the “anti-woke” activists DeSantis champions do sometimes seem hostile to all strong critiques of past racism: see the objections to teaching the 2009 book Ruby Bridges Goes to School, written by Ruby Bridges herself—the woman who, back in 1960, became the first black child in a previously all-white New Orleans school. The book’s critics objected on the ground that its accurate depiction of an angry white mob was too negative and lacked “redemption”. That’s not the outlook of the Florida curriculum, which does mention Ruby Bridges along with other desegregation pioneers. But DeSantis, who rails at very broadly defined woke excess, has not exactly done much to distance himself from anti-woke excess; he’s the guy whose campaign promoted a video touting him as a “draconian” anti-LGBT warrior and has just fired a staffer who pushed a DeSantis video with Nazi imagery in it. Catoggio correctly points out that DeSantis hasn’t done much to earn the benefit of the doubt on culture-war issues.

DeSantis’s reaction to the curriculum controversy further reinforces that point. He mocked Vice President Harris for trying to “chirp and demagogue” the issue. He blithely waved aside the debate about the “skills” line in a dismissive comment (“They’re probably going to show . . . some of the folks that eventually parlayed being a blacksmith into doing things later, later in life”) without bothering to explain why the criticism was inaccurate.

His combative responses may have boosted him in the eyes of hardcore “anti-woke” voters for whom “own the libs” is the beginning and the end of conservatism, but they undoubtedly alienated mainstream voters.

What’s more, even as he dug in, DeSantis also tried to distance himself from the curriculum by stressing that he had nothing to do with it—eliciting a scathing rebuke from former New Jersey governor and GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie. He is, in other words, a culture-war chicken hawk.

Meanwhile, down in the trenches, the stupid thickens. Progressive pundits made sarcastic comparisons to the Holocaust, mockingly saying “some Jews also benefited from the skills they acquired shoveling other dead Jews into furnaces in Auschwitz.” Fox News anchor Greg Gutfeld ran with the analogy, asserting that Jews survived concentration camps by being useful. And for vast numbers of Americans, this saga will merely validate their polarizing political priors: that Republicans are so racist they actually want to rehabilitate slavery; or that Democrats are lying racial demagogues. What suffers most, unfortunately, is the possibility of civilized conversation on race in American history.


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Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

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