Top Florida education official skips Black history forum amid standards backlash

Florida’s education commissioner, Manny Diaz, was noticeably absent from a forum discussing the state’s controversial new standards for teaching Black history.

The forum, held at Antioch Baptist Church in Miami Gardens, drew hundreds of lawmakers, teachers, parents, and activists who expressed their discontent with the new standards. The standards have faced criticism for their requirement that middle-school students be taught that enslaved individuals “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Diaz was instrumental in the creation of the new standards and was advertised as a participant for the event but was a no-show. Diaz cited prior commitments to visiting schools on the first day of classes as the reason for his absence. Critics, including American Federation of Teachers representative Fedrick Ingram, called Diaz’s absence cowardly and accused both him and Governor Ron DeSantis of sidestepping an important issue.

The new Black history standards have become a focal point of political debate, with Vice President Kamala Harris and other prominent figures condemning the curriculum. DeSantis, who is seeking the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has defended the standards and accused his critics of misinterpreting the curriculum.

The new standards come amid a feud between the Florida Department of Education and the College Board which started over the new Advanced Placement Black History Studies course and has now extended to other courses and even the SAT.

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