Bill passed to strengthen civic education in Florida

Modified humanities graduation requirements

By: Maria Alejandra Pulgar

Para leer in Spanish

House Bill 5 (HB5) was enacted by Governor Ron DeSantis, to revise the social science requirements for high school graduation in the state, requiring the Department of Education (DOE) to develop a civic education program to be integrated “as part of regular school work from kindergarten to grade 12”. The new law will come into force on July 1st, 2021.

As part of the graduation requirements, the new law specifies that high school students must complete a half-credit to the United States government that includes “a comparative discussion of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, which are in conflict with the essential principles of freedom and democracy. to the Founding Principles of the United States ”FS 1003.4282 (3) (d).

Two other related pieces of legislation were signed along with HB5. These bills include revisions to graduation requirements and standardized assessments, as well as provisions for the protection of diversity of viewpoints within the Florida College System, among other details aimed at the continuous improvement of the quality of education in the state.

The bills were sponsored by Representatives Ardian Zika, Alex Rizo and Spencer Roach, and Senators Ray Rodrigues, Ana Maria Rodriguez and Manny Diaz.

The dire state of civic and government education in America

An independent national survey of students and recent graduates, commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) and conducted by the University of Chicago (UC) in 2019, showed alarming statistics on the state of civic and government education in America. . For example, only 18% of colleges require students to take basic courses in US government or history, and 60% of those surveyed did not know basic information such as the three branches of the government system, duration of the term of senators and representatives of the United States Congress or who the current Chief Justice is.

The survey questions are similar to the test that immigrants take when applying for US citizenship; if they fail the answers to these questions, they do not get citizenship. Sadly, many who were born and raised in this land of opportunity take their birthright citizenship for granted and ignore the answers to these fundamental questions of civics and American history. It is scandalous, unfortunate and dangerous for the future of the country. What kind of leaders will they choose and who would lead the country if people don’t understand how government works or don’t know history? The solution to this conundrum is to improve civic education and history.

The law “Portraits of patriotism”

Florida is taking action to address the civic knowledge gap of its students with the three recently passed laws.

House Bill 5 requires the Integrated Curriculum for Kindergarten to Grade 12 public school studentse grade focuses on the development of civic responsibility and knowledge. It also establishes the “Portraits in Patriotism Act,” requiring the compilation and preservation by the DOE of oral history resources and personal histories of various individuals who demonstrate “civic-mindedness, including personal stories. the first-person victim of the governing philosophies of other nations. ”Who can compare these philosophies with those of the United States. The South Florida community is full of epic stories worth sharing with future generations.

Another addition to the bill is the inclusion, in the U.S. government course required for high school graduation, a comparative discussion of political ideologies that conflict with the principles of state freedom and democracy. United, such as communism and totalitarianism, which are the foundations of other governments around the world, especially in Latin America. These governments cause suffering and poverty to their people and also have an impact on their neighboring countries, hence the importance of discussing and educating students on the theory of these ideologies. This bill was passed unanimously by the legislature.

Changes to the conditions for obtaining the diploma, free SAT for juniors and pilot educational option

The other two education bills enacted in Florida were Senate Bill 1108 and House Bill 233.

SB 1108 establishes a laundry list of education-related requirements such as SAT or ACT free of charge for every student in 11e to note; a civic literacy course and assessment for post-secondary education; standardized assessments in mathematics and English on paper in 3rd to 6e to note; the creation of a character development program for 11e and 12e evaluators who include instructions on the voting process; and authorizing the DOE to own the intellectual property of certain developed materials.

A highlight of the bill is the creation of the “Innovative Pilot Program for Blended Learning and Real-Time Student Assessment, which involves the combination of in-person and remote students in the same classroom environment”.

SB233, on the other hand, establishes requirements to protect intellectual freedom and diversity of viewpoints in Florida College System institutions and state universities, requires an annual review of this protection, and prohibits protecting students. , professors or staff of freedom of expression protected, to ensure that “post-secondary students will be diverse in ideas and opinions, including those with which they may disagree or find uncomfortable.”

Of the three education bills passed, only SB233 met with opposition in both the Senate and the House. The other two passed unanimously.

If you would like to test your knowledge of US government and civic education, you can take a sample of the ACTA / UC Civic Survey here

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