In another Rethinking Schools article that is not online, University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen tells us, “One way to measure the fears of people in power is by the intensity of their quest for certainty and control ovr knowledge. …The members of the Florida Legislature marked themselves as … terrified of history.. when earlier this year they took bold action to … outlaw historical interpretation in public schools. …Florida has officially … outlawed critical thinking.”
The legislation, Jensen reports, has declared that “American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed.” That factual history, the law states, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable.” Jensen goes on to point out cases in which the facts of history are known but the story that they tell is in dispute. It’s storytelling, not dry facts, and the tension between competing interpretations, that makes history an interesting subject. But don’t go saying that in a Florida public school.
But the law not only robs history of its flavor by outlawing thought, it also dictates a few interpretations that teachers must apply to the facts they teach. Jensen writes, “The law dictates instruction to students on … ‘the sacrifices that veterans have made in serving our country and protecting democratic values worldwide‘” and “‘the nature and importance of free enterprise to the United States economy.'” [Jensen’s emphasis].
So if you find yourself in a Florida public school, don’t mention the New Deal and all its impositions on (and collaborations with) business. Don’t speak of the Populist movement. And don’t breathe a word about labor unions. Those historical facts contradict the importance of free enterprise—so we’ll assume they’re no longer facts in Florida.
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