In Ron DeSantis’s Florida, a Textbook Publisher Deleted Any Mention of Race in the Story of Rosa Parks

As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Ron DeSantis has a dystopian vision for Florida public schools that includes pretending LGBTQ+ people don’t exist and teaching kids that white people have never done anything wrong. Because he’s a massive bully who threatens retribution against anyone with a different worldview, some organizations have felt the need to go to extreme lengths to appease him and his f–ked up perspective. For instance: a textbook publisher that deleted any reference to race in a widely known story about Rosa Parks.

Yes, The New York Times reports that Studies Weekly, whose curriculum is used in 45,000 schools throughout the country, made a disturbing update to its lesson about Parks’s historic Montgomery bus boycott. In the lesson that’s currently used, segregation is clearly defined with text that reads: “The law said African Americans had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person wanted to sit down.” But in an updated version, it’s as though race doesn’t exist at all. “She was told to move to a different seat,” it simply reads.

The company, according to the Times, made “similar changes to a fourth-grade lesson about segregation laws that arose after the Civil War.” The initial version refers to African Americans clearly and states how they were affected by Jim Crow. However, an update makes virtually no mention of race, and merely states that it was illegal for “men of certain groups” to be unemployed and for “certain groups of people” to serve on juries.

Following questions from the Times, Studies Weekly removed the “scrubbed-down version” of the curriculum from its website and said it had removed itself from the state’s review process. For its part, the Florida Department of Education claimed it had rejected the publisher over a bureaucratic issue with its submission. The FDOE also suggested to the Times that Studies Weekly had gone too far with its edits, and that any publisher that “avoids the topic of race when teaching the Civil Rights movement, slavery, segregation, etc. would not be adhering to Florida law.” But as the company pointed out, one of Florida’s laws is the Stop WOKE Act, which DeSantis proudly signed last year and which bans instruction that would make anyone feel “discomfort, guilt, or anguish” about what people of the same race did in the past. And given DeSantis’s previous comments—like that it’s “inappropriate” and “not true” to teach that America was built on stolen land—it’s not hard to see why the company believed it needed to tread lightly.

Meanwhile, the conservative group Florida Citizens Alliance has reportedly “urged the state to reject 28 of the 38” text books its volunteers have reviewed. The group apparently found too many references to slavery in a fifth-grade text book, and felt that an eighth-grade text book spent too much time on the “negative side” of the treatment of Native Americans, without providing a robust account of the bad things Native Americans did. While it’s not clear if the state will adopt the Florida Citizens Alliance’s recommendations, it seems the group has an in with people in high places: According to the Times, the alliance’s cofounders served on DeSantis’s education advisory committee during his transition to the governor’s office.

Speaking of the governor and what he may or may not approve of in a social studies curriculum, last November, in a story about DeSantis’s time teaching high school history at a private boarding school, a former student told the Times that DeSantis seemed to justify slavery while teaching about the Civil War. “Like in history class, he was trying to play devil’s advocate that the South had good reason to fight that war, to kill other people, over owning people—Black people,” Danielle Pompey said. “He was trying to say, ‘It’s not okay to own people, but they had property, businesses.’” Another former student, Gates Minis, said she remembered that, when it came to the Civil War, DeSantis taught things that were straight-up factually inaccurate.

Per the Times:

[Minis] remembers him claiming that every city in the South had burned, even though she knew her hometown, Savannah, had not and she called him out on it.

Another student who requested anonymity because he feared repercussions for his job said Mr. DeSantis’s takes on the Civil War were the subject of so much talk that students made a satirical video about him at the time for the video yearbook. The video, which was reviewed by the Times, includes a short snippet in which a voice purporting to be Mr. DeSantis is heard saying: “The Civil War was not about slavery! It was about two competing economic systems. One was in the North…” while a student dozes in class. (A student voiced the role of Mr. DeSantis, because students did not have any actual footage of him, according to a student who helped put it together.)

Earlier this year, Florida rejected an Advanced Placement African America studies course from being taught in its public high schools. And in January, DeSantis announced that his administration plans to defund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at every public college in the state.

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