Religion belongs in public life, Florida tells teachers

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — New civics training for Florida public school teachers comes with a dose of Christian dogma, some teachers say, and they worry it will also sanitize history and foster inaccuracies.

The formation includes the statement that it is a “misconception” that “the founders wanted a strict separation of church and state.”

Other documents included fragments of statements that were “chosen” to present a more conservative view of American history, some participants said. In a possible effort to inoculate some Founding Fathers against contemporary political complaints, some presentation slides pointed out that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson repudiated slavery; What is left unsaid is that both men held enslaved people and helped craft a Constitution that enshrines the practice.

“What I take away from the training is that civics in the state of Florida right now is about advancing certain particular points of view,” said Broward County teacher Richard Judd, who took the three-day training. “The thesis they ran with is that there is no real separation of church and state.”

The First Amendment prevents the government from “respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, which scholars widely interpret as requiring a separation of church and state.

DeSantis accused the manuals of “indoctrination”. Here is what he meant.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has made civics a cornerstone of his education policy, and he says he is fighting the “woke indoctrination” of students by teachers from kindergarten through middle school.

“We unabashedly promote civics and history that are accurate and don’t try to push an ideological agenda,” DeSantis said during a an event this week.

In Florida, he said, students “learn the real history, you learn the real facts.” DeSantis enacted a new civics curriculum standardsintroduced last year for middle school students, which has met with little opposition from teachers, who say they are understanding and apolitical.

But the “civic boot camps” that DeSantis launched this summer to teach teachers how to implement the program have alarmed many public schools. Judd said trainers told teachers, “That’s how you should think.”

“One of the insulting assumptions was that we were all these woke indoctrinators, and so they presented a cure for that,” Judd said.

The training sessions, first reported by the Miami Herald, began last month and will continue through July for teachers who volunteer to attend. Although not mandated by the state, they receive a $700 stipend for three-day sessions, with a chance win a bonus of $3,000 and a “civic seal of approval”.

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Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, said she’s glad the state isn’t mandating the training, but many teachers are signing up for the stipend. She said union members who attended the training sessions said they were told to present students with “only one side of the story”.

“It was basically, it’s this way or it’s not this way, like there was only one side to American history,” Fusco said. “Then they kind of slipped an element on Christian values, ignoring the fact that this country is made up of so many different cultures and religions.”

Abe Lopez, a civics teacher in Central Florida, supports DeSantis’ emphasis on civics and how the governor believes the subject matter should be taught. DeSantis invited Lopez to speak at his June 30 event announcing the improvement in middle school civics scores. Lopez, who was on the staff of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said he was surprised during his first year of teaching last year that his seventh graders knew so little. on civic education.

“I used this opportunity as a blank slate to help my students understand that their rights are intrinsic and don’t come from a man, they don’t come from a government. Our rights come from a creator,” Lopez said in her speech. “And once you recognize that your rights come from a creator, they cannot be taken away from you by any man or government.”

In an interview, Lopez, who was a national committee member of the Republican Hispanic National Assembly and who in 2020 posted on Twitter for “Stop the Biden Steal” rallies in Florida, said he keeps politics out of the way. of his class.

“We need excellence in civic education, and I think Governor DeSantis’ program is a model for the nation,” Lopez said.

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