TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s new curriculum trainings for teachers were full of presentations around civics, American history, the role of the U.S. Supreme Court and the importance of morals and virtue for what the state calls “desirable citizens.” Parts of the presentations also included instruction for teachers to mold students into said desirable citizens, and how to prevent losses of liberty.
Some of those presentations, a variety of slideshows and interactive sessions between teachers and trainers from the Florida Department of Education, were specifically focused on how early American colonists, including the Founding Fathers, felt about slavery and indentured servants.
The new curriculum was also created following passage of House Bill 7, formally titled “Individual Freedom,” but referred to by proponents as the “Stop WOKE Act.” The bill codified state policy banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory into law, including a prohibition on teaching or training curriculums which make students “feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress” based on their “race, color, sex or national origin.”
Two presentations from the new curriculum trainings for teachers are centered on U.S. history regarding how the country was founded and its opinions on slavery and liberty. In one, the “conditions of independence” that helped America become America explicitly notes the Christian principles of the Founding Fathers in how the United States chose to self-govern.
According to the presentation, the self-governing of America was based on moral virtue, the Christian covenant with God, and the will of the people. In terms of religion, it fits with other the presentations’ themes regarding church, state, and liberty.
But not all residents in the colonies, or the United States following the American Revolution, had their wills recognized in government or even with basic rights of liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Those three tenets were the philosophical basis of the Declaration of Independence, according to Florida’s curriculum.
In a separate training material, focused on liberty and history, the Florida training materials focus on three documents and speeches that are focused on “American Equality.”
The first mentioned is the Declaration itself, followed by President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” and civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, given in August 1963.
It starts off with a presentation titled: “How was the Institution of Slavery Introduced in the Americas?” To begin the training discussion with Florida teachers, it provides a polling question: “Did the Founding Fathers do ALL they could to eliminate slavery?” The poll responses were “agree, disagree, somewhat agree.”
The presentation includes quotes from some of America’s founders, such as Benjamin Franklin, describing slavery, but also states that two-thirds of the Founding Fathers owned slaves.
In proceeding slides, the presentation quotes George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Both men owned slaves. According to the White House Historical Association, Jefferson owned the most slaves of any U.S. President. He owned 600 slaves over his lifetime, according to the association.
The FDOE presentation says there were “gradual” “stepping stones put in place to end slavery.” It names the states of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey as governments with “gradual abolition laws.”
The U.S. banned the Atlantic Slave Trade in 1808, which the presentation notes, and quotes part of the U.S. Constitution’s tax code for taxation on imports, which would include the importation of slave populations.
The concurring presentation, Colonial Seeds of America, asks who came to the British colonies, and why did they come. It includes the following categories of people immigrating to the colonies: “Aristocrats, Indentured Servants, Religious Dissenters, and Enslaved People.” It notes that initially, slaves didn’t come to the American colonies, but indentured servants did.
Indentured servants were ostensibly able to work for their freedom, typically to pay off debts incurred before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to join the colonies. The men and women who were indentured signed legal contracts and were not enslaved. Those who were indentured were expected to “work for a patron for four to seven years” to pay off the debt for crossing to the New World.
Slavery in the colonies is described numerically, as compared to the world stage.
It does not reference a specific year for that 4% of slavery. Research of historical census records, published and compiled by the National Institute of Health, reported that roughly 4.3% of the overall slave population in the Western Hemisphere were in the U.S. between the years of 1790 to 1800. For that period of time, the records state 403,648 slaves were imported to the U.S.
While the FDOE presentation mentions the words slave and slavery 21 times, it skips through the history of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era to the 1960s Civil Rights movement. The impacts of slavery during Reconstruction are not detailed in any of the curriculum trainings.
When it reaches the Civil Rights era and focuses on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the presentation says “The Bank of Justice is Not Bankrupt” and includes the notation “Has the Revolution of 1776 been fully realized?”
It follows up, describing the Declaration of Independence as the “Guiding Light of Equality,” before discussing the Founding Fathers’ efforts toward slavery. It lists the Northwest Ordinance, Southern Containment, and the end of the Atlantic Slave Trade in 1808, but also says the Founders could not have foreseen the invention of the Cotton Gin by Eli Whitney.
Despite the end of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the total slave population at that time was 908,036 by 1800. In 1810, when the next U.S. Census was taken, there were 1,195,182, according to the NIH record.
There were 3.95 million slaves in America in 1860, according to the U.S. Census: 1,982,625 male slaves and 1,971,135 female slaves.
The Civil War started in April 1861. At the start of the war, there were nearly 4 million slaves. Of the overall population in America at the time, U.S. Census records from the Library of Congress report there were roughly 31.43 million residents. About 12.5% of everyone living in the U.S. were slaves as the Civil War started.
The presentation’s “Final Discussion” poses the question: “Using the Guiding Light of the Declaration of Independence, did the Founding Fathers do ALL they could to address slavery?”
The benchmark requirements for the 2023 to 2024 school year, which the curriculum training is aimed toward, students will be required to trace what it calls “foundational ideals and principles” from the colonial period to Reconstruction, and explain how those principles led to the expansion of civil liberties throughout American history.
No answering notes or guidance are provided for the discussion question, nor are materials included in any of the presentations, intended for students K-12, to explain to teachers how FDOE wants them to teach the Reconstruction Era.
As previously reported, FDOE intends for the curriculum to teach students the “qualities of an upright and desirable citizen.” The presentation outlining these goals presents the following qualities for that result:
- Has a thorough knowledge of Americas founding principles and documents, and is equipped to apply this knowledge
- Demonstrates civic virtue and self-government that promotes the success of the United States constitutional republic
- Respects the military, elected officials, civic leaders, public servants, and all those who have defended the blessings of liberty
- Understands and defends the United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other amendments in their historical context
- Recognizes how political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy
- Appreciates the price paid by previous generations to secure the blessings of liberty and why it is the responsibility of current and future generations to preserve it
WFLA.com has reached out to the Florida Department of Education for comment on the new curriculum’s design philosophy, as well as individual planning notes on how it was drafted. It is unknown how passage of HB 7 impacted the design of the new curriculum, WFLA.com has asked FDOE for clarification.