Leaders must work with DeSantis to solve civics crisis
As the 2022-2023 school year begins, Florida politicians, educators and school administrators should consider working more closely with partner organizations to support Governor Ron DeSantis’ efforts to address Florida’s civic education crisis. the state.
Whether or not you agree with the governor on other issues, civics is where all Floridians should be able to come together. Florida high school and college history teachers frequently teach basic elementary and middle school history and civics in their classrooms. That’s because their students, from those in advanced placement classes to those taking remedial classes, generally have a sound understanding of their rights and duties as Americans at best. They don’t understand what makes their country special, and their criticisms of their nation are often rooted in misunderstandings and politicization that a basic education in history and civics should quickly reverse.
Building on the work of the state Board of Education and the state legislature, the DeSantis administration began promoting new civic and historical standards in the state last year, including new civic literary exams and guidelines that encourage comprehensive, fact-based education. These new measures should promote
Education is not meant to be about indoctrination. It’s about finding out the truth. To paraphrase the old adage of Aristotle, people want to know, but they don’t want to be told. They want to find out the truth for themselves.
However, even with these new statewide civics standards, teachers can still inadvertently approach too closely the “be informed” approach to education. Students may still meet proficiency standards when they simply have to memorize and regurgitate facts, but then they are informed, not educated. It gives them an incomplete picture of America and fuels disinterest and detachment from the material while increasing political division and distrust of American institutions.
Add it all up and it’s clear Florida schools don’t just need civics and history standards; they also need to increase the training and mentoring resources available to educators so they can teach the new state requirements in the most effective and efficient way possible.
Florida’s Civics Literary Excellence initiative, which recently began providing funds to enhance teachers’ professional learning and growth, provides growth and development opportunities for social studies educators in Florida. The program enables more teachers to work with organizations such as the Ashbrook Center, an independent center in Ohio which, as I know from personal experience, inspires and trains teachers to explore history with their students through reading, discussing and analyzing the main primary source documents of the country. Ashbrook thinks third-party sources like textbooks often stifle critical thinking and inform students rather than educate them.
The state has supported and sponsored developmental opportunities for teaching English, math, and special education for years. It’s high time he started prioritizing these civics and history opportunities. This represents the best way to solve Florida’s civics crisis and turn Florida students into the leaders America needs.
Greg Balan, a former fellow in the master’s program at the Ashbrook Center, teaches at a high school in Fort Myers where he was the Girls of the American Revolution History Teacher of the Year for Florida in 2021.