MIAMI – Teachers in South Florida are sharing concerns about new state civics education training.
The Florida Department of Education says the 10 available sessions between last month and July will be “aligned to the revised civics and government standards.”
The standards will be fully implemented during the 2023-24 school year.
However, the instruction provided in one of the June three-day sessions has local teacher unions sounding the alarm.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard people come out offended by this particular course,” said Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union.
She says this is 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 the instruction offered a one-sided view and changes to existing benchmarks.
“The method in which the state interpreted those standards and showed us how to teach those standards in class was very Christian-slanted,” said Barbara Segal.
Segal, a 12th-grade government teacher, is entering her 19th year of teaching.
She shares this perspective on a slide reading, “Founders expected religion to be promoted.”
“It seemed like the bible was with our Founding Fathers while writing the Constitution,” added Segal.
Segal quickly pointed out, “Benjamin Franklin was agnostic. Of course, he read the bible. Everybody read the bible. He didn’t necessarily go to church. There were several Founding Fathers in that same boat.”
Another slide said it’s a misconception that the “Founders desired strict separation of church and state.”
“We’ve always taught about the separation between church and state, and that’s what the Founding Fathers always wanted because that’s what they were fleeing when they left Europe,” said Karla Hernández-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade.
She worries about the direction of this curriculum from the state.
“They’re creating these culture wars is not what our parents want to see or talk about,” said Mats. “Our parents trust us. We’re allies in education.
“We want to make sure our kids have a holistic education. We don’t believe in indoctrination. We believe this is a culture war situation.”
Teachers we spoke with were troubled to learn of Hillsdale College’s influence on the training.
“Put in a group from a Christian college that wants to slip in the Christianity values,” said Fusco.
“It’s important to stay objective. Once you start teaching something subjective, then you’re starting to indoctrinate children, and that’s not what we do as teachers,” added Segal.
Hillsdale College is in Michigan. Its website mission statement states in part that it “maintains by precept and example” the immemorial teachings and practices of the Christian faith.
Back to the training sessions, other slides illustrated George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were against slavery, without mentioning they owned slaves.
“And the presenters in the sessions “downplay what happened with slavery,” added Fusco. “They’re putting out their terms of involuntary relocation.”
Mats shared one more concern. She says the changes might not meet AP standards. Mats adds it could jeopardize students’ ability to get into 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 about civics education in Florida. Florida continues to lead the nation with high-quality civics education, which is evident from the improved performance on all statewide social studies metrics for the 2021-22 school year.
“School districts are and still will be required to provide instruction on current State Board adopted social studies standards and the components of the required instruction statutes (s. 1003. 42, F.S.), as well as follow any recent legislation.
“In 2019, House Bill 807 required FDOE to complete a review of the statewide civics education course standards. The public was invited to evaluate then-current civics and government standards through an online review system; the responses were analyzed and a workgroup – comprised of Florida teachers, educators from Florida College System institutions and specialized subject area 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, civics and government standards were drafted, critiqued, improved upon and finalized. In July 2021, the State Board of Education adopted the revised civics and government standards, which strengthen Florida’s already nationally recognized education standards and ensure Florida students have the highest quality civics education standards in the nation. It is important to recognize that Florida’s revised civics and government standards were produced through a rigorous, transparent process that took over one year to complete. The standards will be fully implemented during the 2023-24 school year.
“FDOE is currently undergoing the state adoption process for K-12 Social Studies Instructional Materials. The adoption process will ensure school districts have access to instructional materials that are fully aligned to the revised civics and government standards for the 2023-24 school year. Additional information regarding the K-12 Social Studies adoption can be found on the Instructional Materials page of the FDOE website.
“FDOE is leading the 2022 Summer Civics Professional Learning Series, a three-day voluntary civics professional development opportunity for teachers. The professional learning will be aligned to the revised civics and government standards and will prepare teachers for implementing these standards during the 2023-24 school year.
“Civics educators from across Florida were invited to attend. All ten events, occurring in June and July, have reached capacity with more than 2,750 educators expected to attend in total.
“We hope this helps to clarify Florida’s civics education.”
Broward County Public Schools’ Office of Communications released the following statement:
“Per the District’s Chief Academic Officer, there are no changes in the U.S. or World History standards/benchmarks.
“The new Civics/Government Standards will not be implemented until the 2023/24 school year. The instructional materials process for Social Studies/Civics began in March 2022 with technology review. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to review the materials in late 2022 and early 2023. Once the materials are School Board approved, District Instructional materials/curriculum will be updated for the following school year.”
Miami-Dade County Public Schools released this statement:
“Miami-Dade County Public School teachers provide instruction that is aligned to the state of Florida standards and benchmarks for all subject areas, including Civics. For the 2022-2023 school year, the state has not made any changes to the current Civics standards or curriculum. New Civics and Government standards will be adopted for implementation during the 2023-2024 school year. Once the new standards are adopted, the state will provide districts with the list of state adopted books for social science. At that point, we will review and adopt, as appropriate.”