(Oh, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) knows exactly what he’s referring to.)

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How do you take bad and make it badder? The yellow highlighting offers more than a clue.

In the end, the proposed amendment to Rule 6A-1.094124 wasn’t specific enough for Board Member Tom Grady. Teach the facts, not the truth, won the day as if the two are separate and distinct and have no relation with one another.

The study of history is not about the narrative that explains what happened and how it impacts the present, which is news to Herodotus (484 – 425 BCE), the “Father of History,” who did that very thing.

Nope, for the State Board of Education and its Commissioner, doing the bidding of the Governor, and to drive home that fact, today’s meeting opened with a video address by the Governor*, who couldn’t be present because he was on the West Coast raising cash for his upcoming campaigns, history is nothing but the recitation of facts.

No wonder kids are bored in school. If ever they get interested and want to discuss what something means, the adults shut down the conversation.

“Curiosity is not a sin,” said a famous fictional headmaster. But now, after today’s meeting, it certainly is–at least in Florida. One can almost imagine Joe Friday sitting up on that dais, “The facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

Now, teachers have no choice. Systemic racism, the type that played out in today’s State Board of Education meeting, must be denied. Different interpretations of historical events and what they mean will not be allowed. Only the official version of history, the whitewashed version as many public commenters called it, is acceptable in a Florida classroom.

You might say that’s strange fruit from a body of appointees who only have the best interests of students in mind. But the tools of oppression have taken many forms in American history, including the policy passed today in Florida, which lynched more black persons per capita during the Jim Crow era than any other state.

That’s a fact. Can Florida teachers teach it in their classrooms?

Maybe. Lynchings took place in an era when official governments, state and local, didn’t have to do much to uphold white supremacy. Non-legal paramilitary groups, like the KKK, took care of that. All governments had to do was to acquit if things ever got as far as a public trial.

And it happened–over and over and over again, Emmett Till perhaps being the best-known example. That’s a fact. Can Florida teachers teach it in their classrooms?

Strange fruit. That’s a song sung by Billie Holiday from the late 1930s until her death. You may not want to listen to it; it’s very disturbing to have these facts driven into the imagination through music.

She didn’t live an easy life; no black person did in those days. As she lay dying, after struggles with substance abuse, after the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, in particular Harry Anslinger, made it his mission to stop her from singing Strange Fruit, warning her to never sing the song again and pursuing her for 20 years, …

She refused. She continued to sing the song until her death and Anslinger pursued her for all those years. Even in the hospital, dying, he had her taken into custody.

These are facts, the type of facts Ron DeSantis, Richard Corcoran, and the state Board of Education pretend can be taught in Florida schools.

Strange fruit.

*GOT’s link is not to an actual video link although it seems that the governor did link to a video excerpt from The Florida Channel. That is forbidden by the terms of service of The Florida Channel, not that the Governor thinks that rules apply to him. His godfather thought the same thing, too.

One thought on “Strange Fruit

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