MIAMI- South Florida teachers share their concerns about the state’s new civics training.
The Florida Department of Education says the 10 sessions available between last month and July will be “aligned with revised civic and governmental standards.”
The standards will be fully implemented in the 2023-2024 school year.
However, instruction at one of the three-day sessions in June prompted local teachers’ unions to sound the alarm.
“This is the first time I’ve heard from people offended by this particular class,” said Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union.
She says it’s a “big red flag.”
CBS4 received the materials presented at the training following a public records request.
A Fort Lauderdale High teacher shared with CBS4’s Joe Gorchow that the instruction offered a one-sided view and changes to existing benchmarks.
“The way the state interpreted those standards and showed us how to teach those standards in the classroom was very Christian,” Barbara Segal said.
Segal, a Grade 12 government teacher, is entering her 19th year of teaching.
She shares this view on a slide reading, “The founders expected religion to be promoted.”
“It seemed like the Bible was with our founding fathers when the Constitution was written,” Segal added.
Segal was quick to point out, “Benjamin Franklin was an agnostic. Of course, he read the Bible. Everybody read the Bible. He didn’t necessarily go to church. There were several Founding Fathers in the same boat.”
Another slide says it’s a misconception that “the founders wanted a strict separation of church and state.”
“We have always taught separation between Church and State, and that’s what the Founding Fathers always wanted because that’s what they were running from when they left Europe,” said Karla Hernández-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade.
She is worried about the orientation of this course by the State.
“They’re creating these culture wars, it’s not what our parents want to see or want to talk about,” Mats said. “Our parents trust us. We are allies in education.
“We want to make sure our kids get a holistic education. We don’t believe in indoctrination. We think this is a culture war situation.”
The teachers we spoke with were disturbed to learn of Hillsdale College’s influence on training.
“Put in a Christian college group that wants to slide into Christian values,” Fusco said.
“It’s important to stay objective. Once you start teaching something subjective, you start indoctrinating kids, and that’s not what we do as teachers,” Segal added.
Hillsdale College is in Michigan. Its website mission statement states in part that it “upholds by precept and example” the age-old teachings and practices of the Christian faith.
Back to the training sessions, other slides illustrated George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were against slavery, not mentioning that they owned slaves.
“And the presenters of the sessions are ‘minimizing what happened with slavery,'” Fusco added. “They are laying out their involuntary resettlement conditions.”
Mats shared another concern. She says the changes might not meet AP standards. Mats adds that this could jeopardize students’ ability to enter highly sought-after universities.
Here is the statement from the Florida Department of Education:
“Thank you for contacting the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) to learn more about civic education in Florida. Florida continues to lead the country with high-quality civic education, which is evident in the improved performance of all statewide social studies measures for the 2021-22 school year.
“School districts are and will always be required to provide instruction on the social studies standards adopted by the current State Board and the components of the required instruction statutes (s. 1003. 42, FS), as well as to follow any recent legislation.
“In 2019, House Bill 807 required the FDOE to conduct a statewide review of civic education classroom standards. The public was asked to rate civic and governmental standards while effective through an online review system; responses were analyzed and a task force – comprised of Florida teachers, educators from Florida College System institutions, and subject matter experts – was formed to propose revised standards. The revised standards were developed by Florida educators with Florida students in mind.
“After a series of public workshops and webinars, the Civic and Governmental Standards were drafted, critiqued, improved, and finalized. In July 2021, the State Board of Education adopted the Revised Civic and Governmental Standards, which strengthen the standards of already nationally recognized Florida education and to ensure that Florida students have the highest standards of civic education in the nation. It is important to recognize that the revised Florida Civic and Governmental Standards have been produced through a rigorous and transparent process that lasted more than a year.The standards will be fully implemented during the 2023-24 school year.
“FDOE is currently in the state adoption process for K-12 Social Studies curriculum materials. The adoption process will ensure that school districts have access to curriculum materials that are fully aligned with the revised civic and governmental standards for the 2023-24 school year.Additional information regarding the K-12 Social Studies adoption can be found on the Educational Materials page of the FDOE website.
“FDOE is leading the 2022 Summer Civics Professional Learning Series, a voluntary three-day civic professional development opportunity for teachers. Professional learning will align with revised civic and governmental standards and prepare teachers in the implementation of these standards during the 2023-24 school year.
“Civic educators from across Florida have been invited to attend. The ten events, taking place in June and July, have reached capacity with more than 2,750 educators expected in total.
“We hope this helps bring clarity to Florida civics.”
The Broward County Public Schools Communications Office released the following statement:
“According to the district director of studies, there is no change in the standards/criteria for US or world history.
“The new civic/government standards will not be implemented until the 2023/24 school year. The social studies/civics curriculum materials process began in March 2022 with a technology review. opportunity to review the materials in late 2022 and early 2023. Once the materials are approved by the school board, the district curriculum/curriculum materials will be updated for the following school year.”
Miami-Dade County Public Schools released this statement:
“Miami-Dade County Public School teachers provide instruction aligned with Florida State standards and benchmarks for all subjects, including civics. For the 2022 school year -2023, the state has made no changes to the current civic standards or school curriculum New civic and governmental standards will be adopted for implementation in the 2023-2024 school year. new standards adopted, the state will provide districts with the list of state-adopted books for the social studies. At that point, we will review and adopt, as appropriate.”