The DeSantis/Corcoran DoE just gave a get-out-of-jail free card for teaching real history.

And the entire goofy spectacle of fake-banning real history is doing more to bring real history to the public's attention. So thanks.

The Ocoee massacre was a historical event. Like all historical events, it will be taught thoroughly.

Boom. That’s an official — and remarkably broad — statement from the Florida Department of Education given to Tampa Bay Times reporter Jeffrey Solochek. Note the part in bold.

To his credit, Jeff picked up on my recent article about teaching Ocoee racial pogrom on presidential Election Day 1920. The Ocoee pogrom culminated the white supremacist destruction of Florida’s 1920 black voter registration drive. Full article and detail here. The state recently required teaching Ocoee as an official history standard.

In my Ocoee article, I considered a teacher’s plight in trying to balance state requirements to teach the Ocoee standard with new state requirements to avoid “critical race theory,” a thing that no one can define and isn’t taught anyway. I envisioned a series of disclaimers. See below:

But first … I need to say the DeSantis disclaimer. I am not teaching you critical race theory. I do not know what that is. But this is not that. OK? 

Also, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran says I “may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” … 

… So, let me just declare, because I have a family to feed: Crushing a statewide voter drive with systemic violence against women and annihilating a town’s black population because it tried to vote is NOT “something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.”

Also, I need to quote and address the Chris Latvala Corollary to all these rules: “There is a way to teach it without indoctrinating kids about how bad white people are.” That’s the position of state Rep. Chris Latvala, chairman of the House Education & Employment Committee, on history. 

I am not sure what “it” is; so let me just say: White people are awesome. We have always been awesome. Without us, you would not have skinny jeans or emo music or square dancing or hipsters — or so I understand from popular American history. So as you listen to this, remember: it doesn’t mean white people are not awesome. We are. Always have been. OK. Got it?

Even with all that disclaiming, I’m not sure if the Florida powers-that-be will fire me for not teaching Ocoee or for teaching it. Such is the life of an educator in America’s worst designed, worst led, most corrupt, most incoherent, and most stupidly performative state education system.

“Like all historical events, it will be taught thoroughly.”

Jeff took those bizarre contradictions seriously; and he asked DoE directly about how teaching Ocoee fits into the performative dance of history-banning that DeSantis plans to brag about in the 2024 Republican primary for president. And he got this back — in writing:

The Ocoee massacre was a historical event. Like all historical events, it will be taught thoroughly.

That answer is better than anything I could have hoped for. I even asked Jeff if Corcoran had signed off on it. Here’s how he responded:

Thanks to Jeff Solochek’s questioning, the DoE has just opened the floodgates to teaching real Florida history wider than perhaps ever before.

The key sentence is: Like all historical events, it will be taught thoroughly. Remember, Ocoee is an official “standard” now — a requirement. “All historical events” are not. But they are fair game now, teachers. And you can teach them “thoroughly.”

Forget that vague, undefinable nonsense rule the incompetent Corcoran has cooked up. His actual department — the enforcement mechanism — just told you in writing that you can teach all historical events thoroughly.

I would still recommend doing the stupid disclaimers for your class. (You can do a lot with tone, by the way, lol.) Just say you’re not doing any of the undefinable abstract things you’re forbidden to do. And then teach real events “thoroughly.” You won’t need any theories; American action has always been quite direct.

Streisand, specificity, and language

There’s a pop culture media psychology thing called “the Streisand effect.” Yes it’s named for Babs. Here’s a wikipedia definition.

The Streisand effect is a social phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of further publicizing that information, often via the Internet. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt to suppress the California Coastal Records Project's photograph of her residence in Malibu, California, taken to document California coastal erosion, inadvertently drew further attention to it in 2003.[1]

Attempts to suppress information are often made through cease-and-desist letters, but instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity, as well as media extensions such as videos and spoof songs, which can be mirrored on the Internet or distributed on file-sharing networks.[2][3]

This whole “critical race theory” blahblahblah is a classic example of a Streisand effect. It creates a circumstance where those of us who know a little history can ask power endlessly “does teaching X mean teaching critical race theory?” Just asking, event-by-event, raises the historical profile of each event. Vague, dumb language makes itself vulnerable to smart specificity, as it has here.

Indeed, more people already know more about Ocoee and the critical race theories of its murderers today than they did a when DeSantis/Corcoran starting doing the history purge hokey pokey a few weeks ago.

Fortunate in our enemies

I don’t think DeSantis cares about any of this. He just wants to be able to say he cracked down on teaching history so he can sell it to the most cultish parts of the 2024 Republican primary electorate. Indeed, his entire governorship is built around acting like the pettiest asshole he possibly can to as many “libs” as he can because he thinks that’s what the 2024 GOP primary electorate wants. And he’s probably right.

Corcoran cares a little; but he’s absolutely terrible at delivering any actual outcomes — even for himself. Ask his big FSU pension that doesn’t exist.

Those of us who care about history and its influence on the present and future are very fortunate in our “enemies” in Florida. I know I am, at least. These dudes are going to sell some books for me. I guarantee it. If you want Ocoee put in wider context of the World War I and post World War I-era Florida civil war between 1915-1930, check out “Age of Barbarity.” It’s full of “historical events” taught “thoroughly.”

And Seminole Wars sought to take that history — and earlier history — and apply it to my life and the life of my state and country today and for the future. Review here. From what I can tell, teachers now have carte blanche to teach these books under the “teach historical events thoroughly clause.” Nowhere in either book do the words “critical race theory” or “indoctrination” or “white people are bad” appear.

So to recap: teach the history you want to teach; say the disclaimers while rolling your eyes; and thank the DeSantis/Corcoran dream team of nonsense for elevating the sexy danger of the telling the historical truth.