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Cornell scholar calls Florida curriculum ‘offensive’ but it teaches what he wants

ANALYSIS: A Cornell University professor criticized Florida’s new standards on African-American history, but what he says should be taught is in the curriculum

A pair of scholars criticized Florida’s African-American history guidelines as “offensive,” “misleading” and an attempt to “erase” facts about the mistreatment of black individuals – and then proceeded to list topics that are explicitly listed in the 2023 social studies standards.

The standards received attention after Vice President Kamala Harris falsely claimed that the standards promoted the benefits of slavery.

The standards, in similar language used by the College Board, stated that slaves learned skills which they later used to their benefit.

The standards were also criticized for requiring teachers to talk about both black on white violence and white on black violence during early 1900s race riots and massacres.

“Apparently, Board members don’t know anything about — or want to erase — the actual history of slavery and racism in their state,” Cornell University Professor Glenn Altschuler wrote along with Hamilton College President David Wippman in The Hill on Sunday.

The pair proceeded to list “facts that should be included in the Florida ­public school curriculum,” including the African slave trade and Jim Crow laws, such as poll taxes and “debt peonage.” The pair also want the Ku Klux Klan’s role in the 1920 Ocoee massacre taught.

Altschuler (pictured, left) and Wippman should be pleased to learn that those topics are all clearly listed in the publicly available document which anyone can find online.

Students should learn “how Jim Crow Laws influenced life for African Americans and other racial/ethnic minority groups” and “the ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping on individual freedoms (e.g., the Civil Rights Cases, Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, lynchings, Columbian Exposition of 1893).”

Florida students will learn “how governmental action has affected voter participation (e.g., 15th, 19th and 26th Amendments; Jim Crow laws; poll tax; efforts to suppress voters),” another requirement states.

The phrase “debt peonage” is also clearly in the document – classroom instruction should “[c]ompare the effects of the Black Codes and the Nadir on freed people, and analyze the sharecropping system and debt peonage as practiced in the United States,” the standards state.

Schools must teach “the causes, courses and consequences of the slave trade in the colonies” and “[e]xplain how the rise of cash crops accelerated the growth of the domestic slave trade in the United States,” to give just two of the 16 different hits in the document for “slave trade.”

The KKK and the Ocoee Massacre are both listed in the standards.

A former Michigan State professor and political scientist who helped advise Florida on the standards criticized Vice President Harris for spreading misinformation.

Professor William Allen, who is black, said of the standards, “every intellect can understand the language written there if people will only take the time to read it.”

“And it’s only those who don’t take the time to read it, who will misstate it.”

MORE: Justice Jackson issues affirmative action dissent full of errors

IMAGE: Cornell University; Flgov.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.