Florida middle school assignment on ‘stolen’ 2020 election, media bias goes viral
Miami Herald | By Ryan Callihan | September 1, 2022
A tweet picturing an assignment from a teacher at Nolan Middle School near Bradenton, Florida, went viral Wednesday night because it made reference to claims that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen.”
In a Twitter post, Ron Filipkowski, a Sarasota-based attorney and former Republican with a large following, shared part of study guide for a sixth-grade lesson called “How does a historian work?,” including sections on point of view and bias.
The example of bias is making waves because it refers to former President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.
“The media is often biased and will add words that persuade you to think one way over another. Read these two statements made by reporters after the 2020 election,” the assignment said. “President Trump made claims that the 2020 election was stolen. President Trump made false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.”
“The first sentence is just giving you information, while the second sentence leads you to believe he is wrong before you have all of the facts,” the assignment continued.
There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Judges across the nation have dismissed lawsuits alleging that the election was stolen.
Reached for comment Thursday, School District of Manatee County spokesperson Mike Barber confirmed that administration officials are investigating the matter and that the assignment “does not meet” the district’s expectations.
The homework assignment was passed out by a substitute teacher in a social studies class on Wednesday, Barber explained.
“A thorough review of future homework lessons in this course is taking place and remaining issues related to this assignment will be addressed,” Barber said in a statement emailed to the Bradenton Herald. “Our students deserve the very best education we can provide in accordance with the curriculum and instructional standards set forth by the State of Florida.”
According to Barber, the study guide is based on a state-approved textbook: “Florida Edition by McGraw Hill, “Discovering Our Past — A History of the World Early Ages.” However, the lesson plan includes personalized additions, such as references to the teacher’s name and Nolan Middle School.
As of Thursday morning, the tweet had nearly 4,000 retweets and more than 12,000 likes. Filipkowski, a frequent critic of Republican lawmakers and policies, said the assignment had been sent to him by a student’s parent.
PARENT SPEAKS OUT
Speaking with the Bradenton Herald on Thursday afternoon, one parent from the class said they were “super upset” that the lesson made reference to such divisive political content. The parent asked to remain anonymous, fearing retaliation toward their child.
“This is false information. This is false,” the parent said. “She’s talking about sources, and it’s so sad I have to look at my child and say ‘Your teacher is wrong.’ How am I supposed to explain that to a kid?”
“Maybe in a political science class in college, they can discuss those statements, but this is not for an 11-year-old, so I’m pretty disappointed,” the parent added.
In a copy of the entire study guide provided to the Bradenton Herald, the teacher appears to have directed students to label different news outlets based on their bias.Bradenton-8-31-22-nolan-homework-assignment
“In spite of biases in sources, it is possible to get good information from these sources,” the assignment said. “How can you be sure you are getting the most accurate and reliable information?”
In response to that question, the parent said their child was told to describe Fox News as a “conservative” news source and MSNBC as “liberal.”
“I’m super upset about it. I try to keep my head down and move along, but this is really upsetting. Is she trying to indoctrinate students into what she believes? It doesn’t belong in the classroom,” the parent said. “Can’t we have a neutral, factual, even way of teaching?”
In another section of the study guide, the teacher uses the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War to explain how historians approached President George W. Bush’s response.
“Some historians now group the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq together when speaking of the (9/11) terrorist attacks. In actuality, they are not related,” the teacher explained in the study guide. “The War on Iraq occurred when the U.S. suspected Iraq of having ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ This turned out to be false.”
The parent shared that they are aware of other parents who complained to the school principal. The school district expects to provide more information.