Discomfort is a vital tool used in change. People learning about history that makes them uncomfortable forces them to understand the importance of their actions and keeps them from repeating history. House Bill 7, a recently passed law in Florida, provides that when teaching African American Studies, teachers must revise the curriculum to not discriminate against other races, colors, sex, or national origins. This means that teachers must change the stories or altogether avoid teaching about history in which minority groups, particularly African Americans, were treated poorly by White groups. This is particularly dangerous for democracy because it does not give students the resources they need to make informed opinions. This also has effects on children’s First Amendment Rights, which gives them the ability to seek out and find correct and detailed information. This bill will affect the accuracy of the history taught, in order to save students’ feelings.
The wording of House Bill 7 has been perfected to paint history as something that could single out students based on their race, sex, or color, instead of important stories that teach students that actions of the past and present have consequences that affect present-day. Those consequences are important for students to learn so that they understand how their own actions affect the world. The specific wording of the bill says that because certain concepts can be discriminatory, schools are expected to “revise requirements for required instruction on the history of African Americans”. This obligates schools to change their lessons to teach incorrect or vague history about the mistreatment of African Americans. A few specific stories that Florida has deemed too discriminatory are The Ocoee Election Day Massacre and The Groveland Four. The Ocoee Election Day Massacre started when Black People in Ocoee, Florida were turned away from the polls. A group of 200 Klu Klux Klan members and other white groups stalked, beat, and murdered 30 to 60 Black people. The Groveland Four were a group of Black men, namely Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas, who were wrongly accused of raping a white woman. They were beaten until they confessed, then sentenced to life in prison or death. Two were shot in transport, causing Shepherd’s death and injuring Irvin. When Ernest Thomas escaped arrest he was hunted down and shot over 400 times. These events, while gruesome and terrible, have been stricken from the curriculum to save the feelings of white students. With the continued racism and inequality in the United States, children must understand what made the country the way it is, and what they could do to change it for the better.
This bill has affected students on many levels, also opening the door to allowing bans to be placed on books in schools. A banned book means that it is removed from all schools because a group is opposed to the information it shares. House Bill 1467, another signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, requires all course materials that are available to students must be free of pornography, be necessary for the student, while suiting the curriculum, and be checked off by local stakeholders of the school community, parents and residents of the county. This means that if anyone in the county has an objection to the books they must be removed from the schools. While this does cut down on any inappropriate content being readily available to children in schools and allows parents to have a say in what their children are taught, it also limits teachers and schools significantly because many important issues taught in schools are deemed inappropriate. The consequences of this bill have been such that children have gone to school to find that all of the books have been removed from their classrooms. The extent of the limits can also be seen in the individual books that have been banned like the children’s picture book And Tango Makes Three. The cited reason that this book about two penguins raising a penguin chick was banned was sexual innuendo, but it is widely believed, especially by the authors of And Tango Makes Three that it was actually banned because of its depiction of two male penguins raising a child. This would make sense, especially because it goes hand in hand with House Bill 1557, or the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill. This bill prohibits teachers from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity from Kindergarten until 3rd Grade.
Altogether, these bills have significantly limited what students can learn about in a school setting, taking away their ability to learn about African American History accurately or learn anything about gender identity or sexual orientation whether with books or in classroom instruction. This is being done to take control of what students learn so that the government can rewrite and change history in its favor. The government also wants to ensure that students do not have all the facts to that the future of politics in Florida remains the same as it is today. They are trying to accomplish this by teaching the students that what they are doing is correct and that continuing to vote for politicians with similar stances is the only way to keep Florida “safe”.