Lawakers approve history of communism for schools

Published on March 6, 2024 at 4:11 pm

Florida lawmakers have approved a bill — co-sponsored by a Baker County legislator — that calls for the history of communism to be taught in grades as low as kindergarten.

The House on Wednesday voted 106-7 to pass the measure (SB 1264). Rep. Robert Charles Brannan III, R-Macclenny, co-sponsored the measure in the House.

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All of the dissenting votes came from Democrats. The Senate last week voted 25-7 to pass the bill, meaning it is positioned to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Under the bill, the curriculum would begin in the 2026-2027 school year and would have to be “age appropriate and developmentally appropriate” for all grade levels. The lessons also would be required to cover certain topics.

For example, the curriculum would have to include information about the “history of communism in the United States and domestic communist movements, including their histories and tactics.”

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The proposed curriculum also would have to include lessons on the “increasing threat of communism in the United States and to our allies through the 20th century, including the events of the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China and other mass killings from communist regimes.”

Part of the debate about the bill has centered on whether it is appropriate to teach communism history to Florida’s youngest students.

Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, said that she shares “some of the concerns” about teaching such lessons to kindergarten students. But she supported the bill, describing herself as a first-generation American born to Cuban immigrants who were affected by communism.

Rep. Alex Rizo, R-Hialeah, argued in favor of teaching communism history to young students.

“This bill will teach, this bill will allow opportunities to learn. This bill will allow for people to make up their own minds. And the people that we’re speaking of are children and young adults,” Rizo said.

Public-school students currently can get lessons about communism in high-school social studies courses, and in a seventh grade civics and government class. A U.S. government class that is a requirement for graduation also includes 45 minutes of instruction on “Victims of Communism Day.”

Florida also previously had a course titled “Americanism vs. Communism,” which was required for public high-school students between 1961 and 1991.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat who voted against the bill Wednesday, raised questions about what the history of communism curriculum ultimately would include.

“I find the intent of this bill to be more based on a preference on teaching that a political ideology is bad, versus the historical context around that,” Eskamani said.

Brannan defended the bill.

“Never have we tried to say that we were going to try to indoctrinate anybody, promote fear mongering. But (the bill) simply (is) a means of acknowledging communism’s role in victimizing, torturing, murdering and displacing millions of people in the past century,” Brannan said.

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