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St. Johns County teacher says he left civics training appalled for the future of Florida education

Creekside High School teacher, Justin Vogel, said instructors said the correct way to view America's founding documents is only through the founder's eyes.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — History evolves through countless lenses, which gives us a wealth of perspectives to learn from.

But one St. Johns County teacher believes history lessons in Florida classrooms are being challenged in a negative way.

"They kept saying it over and over again in keynote speeches and breakout sessions that the correct way to look at the founding documents is through the founders eyes. That's the only way to look at it," Creekside High School teacher, Justin Vogel, said. 

Vogel is referring to instructors at a three day civics learning session he recently attended. The session was hosted by the Florida Department of Education and is part of the state's civics literacy excellence initiative (CLEI). 

The program emphasizes the development and support of high-quality civics education, rewards Florida teachers who participate and builds on the success of the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative. 

"They said only four percent of the slave trade was headed towards the English colonies. Now they shared that map a couple times, and what that map was intended to say is 'look, everyone was doing it,' and was a clear attempt to downplay the American institution of slavery and the impact it has," Vogel said. 

Credit: FDOE
FDOE slide showing where enslaved people were brought through the Western Hemisphere.

Vogel isn't the only teacher who came out of the sessions frustrated. Teachers in South Florida voiced their frustration with one of the training sessions in Broward County as well.

Department of Education Commissioner, Manny Diaz, Jr., pushed back on Twitter saying "the Florida Department of Education will ensure that instruction remains focused on facts, especially in the context of American history, to provide an accurate depiction of our nation’s founding. Partisan indoctrination in the classroom is over."

Vogel said he didn't have a problem with the facts presented during the presentation he attended in Jacksonville. What disturbed him was the singular lens the instructors said history was to be viewed through. 

"What they're describing is originalism, which is a valid viewpoint. Some scholars look at founding documents that way and the actions of our Founding Fathers but other scholars look at it differently. What they portrayed as fact was indeed just a single perspective and they forgot all these other different perspectives," Vogel said. 

The Creekside High School teacher said he is all for professional learning sessions for teachers and doesn't have a problem with the Revised Civics and Government Standards that will go into effect during the 2023-2024 school year. 

Especially considering teachers attending one of the 10 regional training sessions around the state will receive a $700 dollar stipend. 

The state's CLEI is a $106 million incentive-laden program that will award a $3,000 stipend to teachers who complete a 50-60 hour online course consisting of an introduction and five modules aligned to the revised civics and government standards. Teachers who complete the online course will earn a Civics Seal of Excellence Endorsement.

But, what Vogel does have a problem with is the session he attended and the future of education if it isn't changed. 

"This will lead to people substituting students in this case substituting a perspective with reality," Vogel said. 

First Coast News reached out to the governor's office for comment regarding negative reaction from South Florida teachers after attending the Broward County session. It referred to the tweet thread from Diaz Jr, saying it fully supports the commissioner and his response.

The Florida Department of Education did not respond to our email and phone call request for comment. 

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