Who Gets to Choose the Curriculum?

Recently, the Florida legislature passed a bill that the governor signed into a law–a law that allows all Florida residents to challenge texts used in classrooms. The new law

“Authorizes a parent or a county resident to object to the use of a specific instructional material and requires the process provide the parent or resident the opportunity to proffer evidence to the district school board that such material does not meet the state criteria or contains prohibited content, or is otherwise inappropriate or unsuitable for the grade level and age group for which the material is used.”

Furthermore, all legitimate citizens’ challenges must be aired in

“at least one open public hearing [which] must be conducted before an unbiased and qualified hearing officer who is not an employee or agent of the school district.”

According to an NPR report the Florida Citizens’ Alliance played a large role in the passage of the legislation. The group has spent time pouring through textbooks and reading materials and asserting their opinions on how those texts aren’t suitable for Florida’s students.

Flaugh a founder of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, noted,

“We found them [the texts] to be full of political indoctrination, religious indoctrination, revisionist history and distorting our founding values and principles, even a significant quantity of pornography.”

“The pornography…was in literature and novels such as Angela’s Ashes, A Clockwork Orange and books by author Toni Morrison, which were in school libraries or on summer reading lists.”

Called “anti-science” by some because they allow science texts and theories to be challenged, discounted, and removed from the curriculum, this Florida law and would-be laws in several other states (Virginia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and South Dakota) threaten curricula developed by professional educators and experts and would replace such curricula with the personal beliefs and preferences of individuals. NCTE has written and signed on letters of protest to all these.

But the question remains, “Who gets to choose the curriculum and what happens to the students’ right to know?”



About Millie Davis

Millie Davis is Senior Developer for Affiliates, and Director of the Intellectual Freedom Center at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). In addition she works on NCTE’s communications efforts, particularly on social media. Millie's passion is working with literacy teachers across the country and beyond whose passion for their students and their students' learning is their reason for going to work each day.

4 thoughts on “Who Gets to Choose the Curriculum?

  1. Parents have the right and responsibility to supervise what their children learn and the materials used. They can, certainly, object to something on the grounds it is harmful to their children. However, this Florida law goes far beyond that. It seems to almost encourage censorship. Narrowing what children learn does more harm; it does not “protect” children.

    One question is: how do we prepare teachers to deal with these “demands”?

  2. Thanks for the Burgess/Jenkinson quote – we need more of such historical grounding. I will use this piece in a segment of a Teaching Writing methods course, and a Milestone Studies in EE graduate course. Relevant both places. Thanks for your work, Millie.

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