Some of my readers may remember that I have a strange fascinations with the school curricula promulgated by state legislatures. I have seen questions in the history sections to which I could not give a complete answer (like Virginia's "Describe the philosophy of government advanced by Machiavelli in The Prince", a question over which political philosophers and historians have spilled millions of words), besides theoretical posers like "explain the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship in the United States of America." Reading these lists makes me wonder if legislators have ever been to a school or met a child.
So I was interested to see that besides the newsworthy anti-woke provisions, the new Florida education law includes a lot of other stuff. For example, Section (2) explains that Florida schools will teach
efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historical accuracy, following the prescribed courses of study, and employing approved methods of instruction, the following:
Highest standards, folks. No slacking. This clause is the lead-in to a rather extraordinary set of requirements. We begin with
2(2)(a)The history and content of the Declaration of Independence, including national sovereignty, natural law, self evident truth, equality of all persons, limited government, popular sovereignty, and inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property, and how they form the philosophical foundation of our government.
There's your assignment, gang, come up with definitions of "natural law" and "self-evident truth" that are both correct to 1776 and understandable to 14-year-olds.
We move on through 2(2)(b), the Constitution, and 2(2)(d) Flag education, "including proper flag display and flag salute," to
2(2)(f) The history of the United States, including the period of discovery, early colonies, the War for Independence, the Civil War, the expansion of the United States to its present boundaries, the world wars, and the civil rights movement to the present. American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable, and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.So all you postmodernists out there had better shut about how the past is not knowable and we "construct" it for own purposes. The state of Florida knows damn well what happened.
By far the longest section is 2(2)(g) The history of the Holocaust (1933-1945), where we are to cover
the systematic, planned annihilation of European Jews and other groups by Nazi Germany, a watershed event in the history of humanity, to be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions, including the policy, definition, and historical and current examples of anti Semitism, as described in s. 1000.05(7) . . .
And so on for about another page. I was relieved to discover that Florida has an official definition of anti Semitism, so we don't have to puzzle over that, leaving us more time to teach 16-year-olds about human behavior, prejudice, racism, democracy, pluralism, and how to be a responsible and respectful person.
In case you were thinking about skipping on this one,
Each school district must annually certify and provide evidence to the department, in a manner prescribed by the department, that the requirements of this paragraph are met.
But history is just the beginning here; the list goes on and on. Viz:
2(2)(i) The elementary principles of agriculture.
2(2)(j) The true effects of intoxicating liquors
2(2)(k) Kindness to animals.
Is anyone going to point out that one of the elementary principales of agriculture, at least as practiced in most of Florida, is unkindness to animals on an industrial scale?
The next long section is for health. Under 2(2)(m)(1), teachers are to find time for:
a. Injury prevention and safety.
b. Internet safety.
d. Personal health.
e. Prevention and control of disease.
f. Substance use and abuse.
g. Prevention of child sexual abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking.
What, exactly, does one teach teenagers about the prevention of human trafficking?
Sex gets two whole sections:
2(2)(m)(2) The health education curriculum For students in grades 7 through 12, teen dating violence and abuse. This component must include, but is not limited to, the definition of dating violence and abuse, the warning signs of dating violence and abusive behavior, the characteristics of healthy relationships, measures to prevent and stop dating violence and abuse, and community resources available to victims of dating violence and abuse.I hope you're all ready to teach to your students how to recognize a healthy relationship.
2(2)(m)(3) For students in grades 6 through 12, an awareness of the benefits of sexual abstinence as the expected standard and the consequences of teenage pregnancy.
But we're not done! We're also going to teach
2(2)(m)(4) Life skills that build confidence, support mental and emotional health, and enable students to overcome challenges, including:a. Self-awareness and self-management.
b. Responsible decisionmaking.
d. Relationship skills and conflict resolution.
And this isn't all; we haven't even started on math or science.
Most of this is worthy; it would be nice if our society devoted some time and energy to teaching children about healthy relationships and self-awareness. And somebody should probably tell 10-year-olds about Internet safety. But count me extremely skeptical that any curriculum that could pass muster with an education bureaucracy will do anything of the kind. And, really, how is anyone going to find the time for 1/10 of this?
I know, it's a wish list, and a long way removed from the actual curriculum. But reading these documents gives me a strange feeling of having slid into a fairyland where we can snap our fingers and make wonderful things happen. If there are problems in the world, these lists seem to say – ignorance, bad citizenship, drug abuse, cruelty to animals – it's only because our schools aren't trying hard enough to teach the solutions.