‘Slavery did not benefit Black people’: Duval County School Board member speaks out about new teaching standards

News 4 Jax | Tarik Minor | July 25, 2023

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Duval County School Board member spoke out on Tuesday about Florida’s new controversial educational standards for African American studies and how the new curriculum could be rolled out into local schools. Board member Darryl Willie who reviewed the academic standards doesn’t only have an issue with the new curriculum which requires Florida educators to teach about the personal benefits of slavery, he’s also concerned about what’s being left out.

“There’s like parts of history that are just sort of either omitted or left out for whatever reason,” Willie said.

Willie, who recently read all 216 pages of Florida’s State Academic Standards, said the new standards do not tell the full story of African American history. He said the new curriculum makes no mention of Black history over the past 150 years and added that the standards equate American slavery with slavery in Asia and other countries, in an attempt to downplay the atrocities.

“What I think the folks are trying to do there is, they are really trying to say is, when it comes to slavery, everybody had slaves during the time, so it was really wasn’t that bad. Everybody was doing it,” Willie said.

Another issue for Willie is a one-line clarification that mandates the instruction to include how slaves developed skills which in some instances, could be applied to their personal benefit.

It’s the reason why Willie said he made a t-shirt that was seen in a picture that went viral on social media that reads, “SLAVERY DID NOT BENEFIT BLACK PEOPLE.”

“Those are now what gets prioritized to teach in the classroom. So, at the end of the day, a teacher now has a list of ‘here are the things you need to cover by the end of that year.’ And now that’s a standard that will need to be covered,” Willie said.

The new African American studies curriculum was approved last week by The Florida Department of Education Black History task force, a group News4JAX has learned was stacked with Governor Ron DeSantis’ allies in May. Four of the six members have previously been appointed to positions by DeSantis, and five of the six are active in Republican politics.

“Usually when standards are adopted, they go into sort of the workshop period where they start to figure out which standards can be sort of implemented. I’m not sure exactly what the timeline is, but we’ll find that out too. And then we’ll actually be able to have a better sense of how these will actually show up in classrooms this year for our students here and Duval County,” Willie said.

An original member of the African American History task force, Dr. Brenda Walker, and other Florida educators are now asking the Board of Education to table the standards until the recommendations of the original task force can be considered, or to have the controversial clarification thrown out. It’s unclear if the Board of Education will honor that request.

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