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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Why was Rosa Parks told to move to the back of the bus?

Florida is approving new "anti-woke" social studies textbooks, reports Sarah Mervosh in the New York Times.

Some publishers think the state's "Stop W.O.K.E." law requires erasing race. A progressive group found drafts of a reference to Rosa Parks which omitted any mention of why she was told to move to another seat on that bus, and another that tried to talk about the "black code" without mentioning race.

Rosa Parks Photo: Encyclopedia Britannica

The Florida Department of Education issued a statement saying that isn't so. Any publisher that “avoids the topic of race when teaching the Civil Rights movement, slavery, segregation, etc. would not be adhering to Florida law,” the department said.

When Florida rejected math textbooks for violating state standards, that was unusual. Usually the problem with math books is that they're lousy at explaining math.

But there's nothing unusual about social studies textbooks generating political fights, despite the story's claims. Every political faction and interest group tries to enshrine its take on history. Racial, religious and ethnic groups demand "mentions."

Florida requires teaching Black history, including “the ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping on individual freedoms.” The state also bans teaching "students to feel responsibility, guilt or anguish for what other members of their race did in the past," Mervosh writes.

A publisher called Studies Weekly currently explains Rosa Parks to first graders: “The law said African Americans had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person wanted to sit down.”

In a version on the web site, this was changed: “She was told to move to a different seat because of the color of her skin.”

A third version provides no explanation of segregation or Jim Crow laws: “She was told to move to a different seat.”

However, "it’s unclear which of the new versions was officially submitted for review," Mervosh reports.

We'll see what Florida actually approves. I don't think Stop W.O.K.E. is hostile to the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks wanted the bus driver to be colorblind in how he treated riders, not guilty about white privilege.

Oregon legislators voted unanimously to add "Jews to the list of marginalized peoples whose histories and contributions public schools must teach," reports Jewish News Syndicate. Also on the list are Native American, African, Asian, Pacific Islander, Chicano and Latino people, those of Middle Eastern descent, women, those with disabilities, immigrants, refugees and LGBTQ people.

Oregon requires teaching about the Holocaust and other genocides, but "supporters of the 2023 amendment sought to include instruction about Jewish achievements," not just Jewish suffering.

Will including Jewish achievers counteract anti-Semitism? I doubt it. And here's betting that gay leader Harvey Milk will be one of Oregon's Jews To Be Mentioned. He's a twofer. (Of course, he was murdered. But not for being Jewish.)

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