Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a scathing keynote address at Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.’s national convention, criticizing the DeSantis administration in Florida for adopting new African American history standards.
The state Board of Education’s recent decision on the standards has drawn criticism, with opponents arguing that they rewrite and omit crucial historical facts or push uncomfortable topics to higher grades.
During her speech, Harris took particular aim at a new standard that suggests enslaved people benefited from slavery by developing skills that could be applied for their personal benefit. She condemned the revisionist history being promoted by extremists and accused them of insulting and gaslighting the public.
“Speaking of our children, extremists pass book bans to prevent them from learning our true history — book bans in this year of our Lord 2023. And while they do this, check it out, they push forward revisionist history,” Harris said. “Just yesterday in the state of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery. They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it.”
The White House highlighted this part of her remarks, indicating that the Biden administration is taking a strong stance on the issue.
Following her speech, the White House announced that Harris would visit Florida to deliver further remarks on protecting fundamental freedoms, specifically the freedom to learn and teach America’s full and true history. This move signals that the Biden administration is leaning into the debate over historical education standards in Florida.
Although there has been no direct response from Governor Ron DeSantis, state education officials, including Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, have pushed back against the criticism of the new standards. They argued that reducing enslaved people to mere victims of oppression fails to acknowledge their strength, courage, and resilience during a difficult time in American history.
Critics of the standards have faced accusations of being influenced by the state’s teacher union, which has had clashes with the DeSantis administration in the past. As Harris’s remarks gain attention and the Biden administration shows support for addressing historical education, it is expected that Governor DeSantis and his supporters will respond strongly in the near future. The issue of teaching accurate and comprehensive history in schools remains a topic of intense debate and contention.