Making Black History Mandatory

Article excerpt

Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles is convinced that knowledge is the best antidote to racism. That's why he has gladly signed into law bills requiring Florida's public schools to include Holocaust education and black history in their curricula.

The legislation isn't unprecedented. Illinois, for example, has had a black-history law since 1970. Often, though, schools segregate this history, relegating it to discussion only during Black History Month. Gov. Chiles hopes the Florida law will convince school districts that the "lessons of history should not be limited to one month or one day on the school-year calendar."

Florida's action is timely, given the poison that's being peddled by some under the guise of academic freedom or free speech. One irresponsible claim is that Jewish people were mainly to blame for the trade in black bodies across the Atlantic; another is that the Holocaust is fiction.

Textbook publishers must share some of the blame. To avoid offending fundamentalist groups, publishers have offered sanitized history texts that gloss over certain historical events. …