TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Vice President Kamala Harris laid into the DeSantis administration during her keynote address on Thursday at Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.’s national convention in Indianapolis. And it appears she plans to do it again when she touches down later Friday in Jacksonville.
During her speech, she took aim at African American history standards adopted this week by the state Board of Education that critics contend rewrite and omit key facts or push uncomfortable topics into higher grades. Most glaringly, one of the new standards seeks instruction on “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
“Speaking of our children, extremists pass book bans to prevent them from learning our true history — book bans in this year of our Lord 2023. And while they do this, check it out, they push forward revisionist history,” Harris said. “Just yesterday in the state of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery. They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it.”
It was just one part of Harris’ remarks, but the White House made sure to draw attention to it when excerpts were delivered to the media.
And then on Thursday evening, the White House announced that Harris would visit Florida, where she would “deliver remarks on the fight to protect fundamental freedoms, specifically, the freedom to learn and teach America’s full and true history.” So it looks the Biden administration is leaning into this.
There hasn’t been any direct response from Gov. Ron DeSantis about this. But there has been some pushback from state education officials about the rising criticism.
Alex Lanfranconi, who works as a spokesperson for Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, late Thursday afternoon tweeted out a statement from those who worked on the new standards. Lanfranconi drew attention to this part: “Any attempt to reduce slaves to just victims of oppression fails to recognize their strength, courage and resiliency during a difficult time in American history.”
The other messaging from Diaz and others is that the critics of the standards are in the thrall of the state’s teacher union — which has clashed repeatedly with the DeSantis administration over the past few years.
If the past is prologue, however, expect the governor and his supporters to respond forcefully to Harris soon.
A version of this article first appeared in Florida Playbook. Sign up for it here.