Florida’s Board of Education adopted a rule June 10 that bans critical race theory from the state’s public schools. But the ban won’t change what’s taught in Alachua County Public Schools, according to the county’s social studies curriculum supervisor.
Critical race theory refers to an analysis of how historic racism has built a society that still perpetuates systemic racism and upholds a racial caste system. This form of study has been criticized by conservatives like Gov. Ron DeSantis. He called it “state-sanctioned racism” that teaches children how to hate their country and each other in a tweet.
Although Republican opposition is clear, what is unclear is why the ban was put in place: It targets school curriculums that never taught critical race theory to begin with.
“We don’t use theoretical frameworks as a school district,” said Jon Rehm, supervisor of the social studies curriculum at Alachua County Public Schools.
The state’s ban of critical race theory specifies that teachers must teach in a factual and objective way, according Florida Department of Education. ACPS did not receive a direct mandate from the state to implement anything new into its teaching methods because it already follows those principles, said Rehm.
Rehm said the school district’s history teachers mainly focus on providing archival documents to study instead of current perspectives. Basing the instruction in first-person documents allows students to form their own opinions, he said.
Furthermore, ACPS has not received complaints about critical race theory being taught in the county, Rehm said.
David Biddle, chairman of the Gilchrist County Republican Party, agreed that critical race theory is not a widespread problem in Florida. However, he is concerned that it may be taking hold and cited a graduation ceremony in Broward County that segregated students based on critical race theory practices.
Biddle did not provide the name of the school where the alleged segregation took place.
Biddle agrees with Gov. DeSantis’ stance on the theory and thinks it teaches people how to think instead of what to think.
“It teaches hate, it dissuades unity, it teaches that America and its founding is evil,” he said. “It teaches that there’s a hierarchy in society based on race, teaches that groups are permanently oppressed, and people are guilty, based on their race instead of their actions.”
David Canton, director of African American Studies at UF, said critical race theory is not necessarily focused on examining race but can help analyze class structure generally. It can shed light on why low-income areas get higher rates of cancer, and those residents could be white people too, he said.
As Canton sees it, the debate around critical race theory is just a distraction to focus attention away from how issues regarding inequality are not being properly addressed.
Critical race theory is simply a way of looking at information, Canton said. Critically analyzing laws and institutions in relation to how they influence systemic inequality does not equate to hating America, he said.
“Why is it OK for the Founding Fathers to be critical of Britain, but citizens can’t be critical of the United States government?” Canton said. “That’s a contradiction.”