Teachers have been bewildered by the introduction of religious teachings in school education in Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis recently launched a Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative (CLEI), which made Floridian teachers attend a three-day training session to learn how to indoctrinate students about Christianity.
This training regime is a part of Governor Ron DeSantis' $106 million initiative. After completing the course, the teachers will get the Florida civics seal of excellence and a bonus of $3000. DeSantis stated that 2,500 teachers would complete the program by the end of this month.
This Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative will build on the success of the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative that we launched last year and I look forward to working with the Florida Legislature to make it a fixture in schools across our state.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 17, 2021
In a press conference in Sanford, DeSantis stated that the program is "unabashedly promoting civics and history that is accurate, and that is not trying to push an ideological agenda." The governor added, "You're learning the real history. You're learning the real facts, but it's not gonna be done in a way that's trying to indoctrinate students with whatever modern agenda that somebody may have".
The teachers of Florida were appalled after a three-day training session in Broward County. The initiative was designed to prepare students to be virtuous citizens but was steeped in conservative, Christian ideology.
According to what was taught in the session, "the nation's Founders did not desire a strict separation of state and church, downplayed the role the colonies and later the United States had in the history of slavery in America and pushed a judicial theory, favored by legal conservatives like DeSantis, that requires people to interpret the Constitution as the framers intended it, not as a living, evolving document."
The training session focused on some "misconceptions," claiming that the nation's founding fathers did not want a strict separation of church and state. The constitution should be interpreted as what "forefathers actually meant." The session also tried to justify slavery.
A high school teacher, Justin Vogel, said, "They said only four percent of the slave trade was headed towards the English colonies. Now they shared that map a couple times, and what that map was intended to say is 'look, everyone was doing it,' and was a clear attempt to downplay the American institution of slavery and the impact it has".
A teacher said, "There was this Christian nationalism philosophy that was just baked into everything there." Another teacher, Barbara Segal, said, "There was a very strong Christian fundamentalist way toward analyzing different quotes and different documents. That was concerning."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, FFRF has urged the Florida Department of Education to "remove miseducation about the Founders and Framers from Florida's new, recently implemented civics standards."
The FFRF claims that the new initiative aims to indoctrinate the students in Christian Nationalism. They added, "Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as a "Christian nation," singled out for God's providence to fulfill God's purposes on Earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels."
An investigation about the initiative has been started by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The investigation aims "to uncover the extent to which the training sessions were developed by the conservative Christian groups."