DeSantis changes Florida curriculum on history of slavery and social issues


Date published: Thu, 10 August 23

Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, is dramatically altering Florida’s curriculum. DeSantis is fighting, in his words, “woke ideology.” The alterations in the curriculum are geared towards topics that acknowledge or teach about systemic injustice in American society. 

Taking control of the Education Department, DeSantis has vastly changed the K-12 curriculum. He has fought with College Board over AP African American studies, and Vox reports, he has hinted that he will get rid of AP courses altogether. 

These changes come from the new standards, backed unanimously by the state Board of Education. These standards include how race can be taught in Florida schools. These standards are found here. The sections on slavery are particularly concerning. What was a systemic, institutionalized system of oppression, marginalization, and subordination of an entire class of people has been reduced to a contract, an exchange, and overall, not as bad. In this document, there is a section that says to “Examine the condition of slavery as it existed in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe prior to 1619.” Although this is not necessarily a regressive idea to teach to children, the omission of the uniquely horrific nature of the Triangular Slave Trade is glaring. There is another point that says, “Explain how slave codes were strengthened in response to Africans’ resistance to slavery,” making it seem that slaves deserved retribution from slave owners for resisting slavery.

More Recently, Rob DeSantis’ administration has approved the use of Prager University videos to teach kids about slavery. This video is of Christopher Columbus telling kids that slavery was “no big deal.”


As a note, Prager University is not an accredited university. PragerU Kids’ website defines itself as “Teaching American Values,” and that “woke agendas are infiltrating classrooms, culture, and social media.”


Another video by PragerU shows Frederick Douglass telling kids that founding fathers had to “compromise” on slavery to achieve the making of the United States.

Douglass is known to have said

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”

The gross whitewashing of historical figures who have fought for abolition in all of its meanings is something that must be fought against.

The use of the word “woke” amongst conservatives is telling. To be “woke” in the Black community means that “someone is informed, educated and conscious of social injustice and racial inequality”, according to Webster Dictionary. Many conservatives have co-opted the term as a pejorative to signify identity-based social justice issues that progressives push for. Trump and DeSantis, as well as many others, use the term negatively to reject the idea that there are systemic injustices in American society and that we need to address them. 

Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post says it very clearly, “The problem with all of this is that it seeks to contextualize American slavery as something other than what it was: a unique historical crime, perpetuated over 2 1⁄2 centuries. Slavery was practiced here on an industrial scale, based on race and the belief in white supremacy, with not just individuals but also their descendants consigned to lifelong servitude.”

DeSantis making these changes in Florida should be a warning to other states. Get involved in your local politics, and advocate for education that does not gloss over the violent history of the United States. Sweeping these issues under the rug is not a solution – the nature of the country’s history must be acknowledged if we are to even attempt to move forward.