David Applebaum: Historians Need to Act Fast Against the Florida Law

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Mr. Applebaum, teaches history at Rowan University, NJ.]

It is ironic to find the text of the Florida Law on teaching history published in “online sunshine.”

Analysis of the legislation states that the fiscal impact of the legislation is “indeterminate” – a postmodern term in a document that condemns postmodernism! The impact, from the point of view of “revisionist historians” is not indeterminate. There are contingent possibilities and that is the reason for historians across the country, at every level of the profession, need to take action now.

In the name of “providing limited government” the legislation creates an intrusive state which substitutes propaganda and partisan polemics for historical study. Similar legislation, in Italy after 1929, German after 1933, and Vichy France after 1940 carried similar rhetoric and justifications.

This year, efforts in the Fifth French Republic to control the teaching of colonialism and imperialism were stopped. Our colleagues in France were able to block government from controlling research, shaping scholarship and limiting classroom content. Within the framework of our Federal system, we should adopt a similar goal.

The Florida law calls for completion of ONE CREDIT! No doubt, the simplification of the truth and rote learning envisioned by the legislation matches the amount of time the needed for the political indoctrination fabricated in Tallahassee

The American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the National Council of Social Studies can and must act with speed. If the Florida curriculum becomes practice, then the logical step is decertification by these non-governmental, professional organizations. In addition, colleges and universities across the country cannot and should not accept the Florida curriculum as fulfillment of undergraduate student admissions requirements.