Monday, July 2, 2012

Florida History: Castro ignites change in Florida schools 1961

Castro (right) with fellow revolutionaryCamilo Cienfuegos entering Havana on January 8, 1959.
Photo courtesy of 
Luis Korda

By Jane Feehan

With a wary eye cast south to Fidel Castro’s communist encampment in Cuba, Florida’s state legislature passed a law in 1961 that made it mandatory for public schools to teach an anti-communist course. The course, “Americanism versus Communism,” was taught to high school seniors beginning in 1962.

Florida law stated:

The course shall lay particular emphasis upon the dangers of communism, the ways to fight communism, the evils of communism, the fallacies of communism, and the false doctrines of communism.

Also:

The course … shall emphasize the free enterprise – competitive economy of the United States of America as the one which produces higher wages, higher standards of living, greater personal freedom and liberty than any other system of the economies on earth.

A new course subject brought the usual questions about textbooks, but administrators were also concerned about who would serve as authoritative sources. They worked through the uncertainties and published a 62-page teacher’s guide that dictated the points to be covered as well as a list of 50 publications for outside reading.

Teachers didn’t protest but there was keen national interest in the law because never had a state legislature spelled out exactly what should be taught in schools. The 800-pound guerilla in teacher’s lounges was the possibility that governments could be just as explicit in the teaching of American history, economics and more.

We all survived. I remember taking the course in school via the Educational TV station broadcasting out of Miami.

Florida repealed the law mandating the anti-communist course in 1983 -- and replaced it with a requirement for an economics class. Times have changed and fear has strangely evaporated about the state dictating school curriculum. Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

Sources:
Miami News, Mar 18, 1962
Miami News, April 15, 1983

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Tags: Florida history, Florida in the 1960s, Florida legislature 1960s, Castro and Florida, Florida schools in the 60s, film industry researcher

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