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Florida adopts new civics curriculum standards that will teach 'advantages' of US government

Some educators had previously raised red flags about proposed changes to how civics are taught in Florida schools.
Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s State Board of Education approved revised civics curriculum standards on Wednesday that include teaching students the “advantages” of the United States’ system of government and capitalism.

The Board also adopted new Holocaust education standards, new character education standards, new substance use and abuse standards, revised B.E.S.T. (Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking) English language arts standards, and updated exceptional student education access points. 

You can learn more about all the updated standards here. 

In June, 10 Tampa Bay reported on a previous draft of the revised civics standards that was raising red flags among some educators, who said the revisions removed critical thinking and added bias. 

The updated draft that was approved on Wednesday has moved away from some of those changes that were raising eyebrows, but kept others. 

Watch “What’s Brewing?” on YouTube: Some teachers worry about proposed changes to Florida civics lessons 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been vocal about his administration’s efforts to expand civics education in schools. 

DeSantis signed this bill into law in 2019 instructing the Florida Department of Education to review the state’s civics standards. 

On Tuesday, DeSantis announced that a $106 million initiative aimed at making Florida the national leader in civics education will go into effect this coming school year. DeSantis said the program would teach students the “foundational principles” of our country without “politicized academic fads.” 

In the revised civics curriculum standards approved by the State Board of Education most of the changes raising questions among educators happened in 7th grade. 

So, we’re going to focus our attention there. 

Some of the new standards shift from teaching students to compare different governing strategies to teaching students that the American way is the best way. 

“There is some issue with the objectivity of some of the standards. They give students foregone conclusions,” Cathryn Goble-Smith, a social studies curriculum specialist at Polk County Public Schools, told 10 Tampa Bay in June. 

Instead of the current standard of learning to “compare different forms of government,” 7th graders will be taught to “analyze the advantages of the United States’ constitutional republic over other forms of government in safeguarding liberty, freedom and a representative government.” 

And instead of learning to “compare parliamentary, federal, confederal, and unitary systems of government,” 7th graders will have to “explain the advantages of a federal system of government over other systems in balancing local sovereignty with national unity and protecting against authoritarianism.” 

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis moves forward with $106 million civics education initiative

The revised standards also add a new benchmark requiring 7th graders to “analyze the advantages of capitalism and the free market in the United States over government-controlled economic systems (e.g., socialism and communism) in regard to economic freedom and raising the standard of living for citizens.” 

“Any good teacher would tell you that part of our job is to play devil’s advocate and to have students look at both sides of any issue. So, any social studies teacher would say, what are the advantages and what are the disadvantages?” Goble-Smith told 10 Tampa Bay in June. 

The standards also add a new benchmark requiring students to “explain the purpose and function of the Electoral College in electing the President of the United States.”  

This is a departure from the previous draft’s language that some educators felt was biased: “Explain why the Electoral College is essential to the United States’ constitutional republic.” 

RELATED: Florida students will be taught that communism is evil, DeSantis says

The current standard requiring that 7th graders learn to “Identify America’s current political parties, and illustrate their ideas about government” was replaced with a standard requiring students to “explain the origins of the Republican and Democratic political parties and evaluate their roles in shaping public policy.” 

In a prior draft, the benchmark had been eliminated entirely.  

Students in the 7th grade will no longer learn to “evaluate candidates for political office by analyzing their qualifications, experience, issue-based platforms, debates, and political ads.”  

Instead, they will only learn to “identify the constitutional qualifications required to hold federal and state office.” 

And 7th graders won’t “conduct a mock election to demonstrate the voting process and its impact on a school, community, or local level” anymore. 

That hands-on experience has been replaced with a standard requiring them to instead “explain how elections and voting impact citizens at the local, state and national levels.” 

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis announces civics education initiative to combat 'politicized academic fads'

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