Florida’s new civic training raises questions of religious indoctrination – The 74

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A nonprofit fears that new civics training for Florida teachers will push Christian nationalism and endanger the separation of church and state.

The organization, Americans United For Separation from Church and State, said earlier this month it wanted to investigate whether the training had been influenced by “conservative Christian groups like Hillsdale College and the Bill of Rights Institute. , founded by Koch”.

Governor Ron DeSantis has touted his administration’s efforts to boost civic education in Florida, including revamping civic standards in 2021, but some teachers say the new civics training materials are biased toward Christian ideology and conservative.

The organization begins with a request for public records from the Florida Department of Education, but it may not end there.

“Americans United is considering all options. We are not going to sit idly by while politicians smuggle white Christian nationalism into public school curricula under the guise of good citizenship,” Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser said in a statement. A press release.

Late last month, the Miami Herald reported that some Broward County teachers In the process of being formed to implement the new standards, the documents were “imbued with a Christian and conservative ideology”. The news agency shared the PowerPoint slides of a three-day training session.

News4Jax reported that a St. Johns County teacher shared similar sentiments.

“No more fire under this smoke”

Andrew Seidel, vice president of strategic communications for the advocacy group Separation of Church and State, told the Phoenix that the organization has been following Florida’s civics curriculum for some time. The Florida Department of Education adopted new civic standards for K-12 schools in 2021.

“The training itself, to implement this program, was alarming, which suggests to us that there is a lot more fire under this smoke,” Seidel said.

The PowerPoint slides from the training claim, for example, that there is a “misconception” that “the founders wanted strict separation of church and state and that the founders only wanted to protect freedom of worship.” .

Seidel is the author of “The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Isn’t American.”

“The separation of church and state is a concept that is woven into the very fabric of our Republic and our Constitution,” he told the Phoenix. “There is no freedom of religion without a government free from religion.”

‘Provide this basis’

DeSantis claims that if more people understood civics, there would be less “division.”

“I’m confident that if we provide that foundation, those students as they grow into adults, they’ll be able to navigate a lot of the stuff that’s going on and make sense of a lot of the stuff that’s going on, much better than probably my generation or certainly the last few years,” DeSantis said at a June 30 news conference in Sanford.

“And it’s going to pay a lot of dividends,” he continued. “I mean, quite frankly, if we did a better job of civic education, I don’t think we would have as many divisions in our country as we have. Because there are a lot of people you know – you don’t have a common understanding of our constitutional structure, our founding principles, and it’s much harder to agree on different kinds of issues.

Much of DeSantis’ political image revolves around keeping so-called “woke ideologies” out of Florida schools, and he frequently recites the motto “education, not indoctrination” during his appearances.

DeSantis added during the press conference:

“History is good and bad. There are all sorts of things going on, but I think history is that because we were founded differently on different ideas – about God-given rights and how government , uh, people’s own role lives on, people were able to overcome a big, big challenge.

“Existential Threat”

Seidel says his group’s investigation will examine whether civic education for teachers incorporates Christian nationalism, which he says is an “existential threat to our republic.”

“Christian nationalism is fundamentally opposed to pluralist democracy, and if we teach this to children in public schools, we are not raising good citizens. This is the opposite of what DeSantis claims is the goal of this program,” he said.

Andrew Spar, president of the state teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, also discussed civics training.

“From what I understood from those teachers who went through that first training they had on civics, it wasn’t just about teaching religion – it was about teaching about ‘biased way to a specific religion,’” Spar told the Phoenix.

“And it really distorted the foundation of this country, where it says the foundation of this country is based on religion. The founding of this country was actually based on escaping religious persecution,” he continued.

“You know, I think our founding fathers were very deliberate in saying that religion wasn’t so central to how our government worked. So, you know, it’s concerning.

“And it’s also disturbing and interesting that, you know, it’s coming from the governor’s administration where he continues to accuse teachers of indoctrinating children, but then clearly seems to want to organize a civics class in which he indoctrinates the children.”

Not everyone sees civic education as a red flag yet.

Bob Holladay, an assistant professor at Tallahassee Community College, told the Phoenix that “he’s not worried about what he’s seen so far” regarding the civics PowerPoint slides.

“Unless, and let me emphasize, unless K-12 teachers start being penalized in some way for teaching, for emphasizing something different here. If that starts happening, you know, then there’s some concern,” Holladay said. “I don’t see much evidence of that yet.”

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact editor-in-chief Diane Rado with any questions: info@floridaphoenix.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

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