Florida Governor and failing Republican Presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has challenged Vice President Kamala Harris to come to the state and discuss their new African American History curriculum.
Harris previously slammed the state's new Black History standards as "propaganda," "lies," and "an attempt to gaslight." The state's guidelines followed the implementation of a conservative-backed law that mandates lessons on race be taught in an “objective” manner that does not attempt to “indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.”
The African American history standards in Florida now include “benchmark clarifications,” which provide additional information to educators on how to address certain topics. One such benchmark instructs them to teach students “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
In a letter Monday, DeSantis said that Harris' criticisms "repeatedly disparaged our state and misinformed Americans," and challenged her to engage in "a serious conversation on the substance of an important issue." He jabbed: "I hope you're feeling up to it."
Harris already visited the state last week, in which she denounced the standards in an address to the nation. She said in her remarks: "Adults know what slavery really involved. It involved rape. It involved torture. It involved taking a baby from their mother."
To suggest that "there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization" is itself misinformation, the vice president said. "And it is pushing propaganda."
Though he did not have a hand in creating them, DeSantis has defended the curriculum standards, particularly the "personal benefit" section, of which he said: “They’re probably going to show that some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life."
In his letter, DeSantis said he would also invite William Allen, who helped write the curriculum. He told Harris that she could invite American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, or someone else who represents her views to support her.
In a statement to USA Today, Weingarten said he would not participate if he was invited, as well as mocked DeSantis for even suggesting such a "debate."
"Is this debate schtick a new tactic for flailing presidential campaigns? I didn’t debate Mike Pompeo and I certainly won't debate Ron DeSantis over whether slavery had 'benefits,'" he said. "That debate was settled by Lincoln — and DeSantis' side lost."