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Even our best students need to learn more African-American history | Letters
Here’s what readers are saying in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
 
Akoye Simms, 7, stands in the back of a 1949 GMC bus parked outside the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16, 2023, in Chicago. On Dec. 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person in the same model of bus, resulting in the Montgomery bus boycott, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Akoye Simms, 7, stands in the back of a 1949 GMC bus parked outside the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16, 2023, in Chicago. On Dec. 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person in the same model of bus, resulting in the Montgomery bus boycott, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [ JOHN J. KIM | Chicago Tribune ]
Published Jan. 29, 2023

What Florida students deserve

DeSantis says AP African American history class pushes a political agenda | Jan. 24

I write to express my horror upon learning that the Florida Department of Education rejected the College Board’s decade-long effort to offer an Advanced Placement (AP) course in African American studies, which is currently being tested in 60 schools nationwide. For 30 years I worked in selective college admissions and nearly a decade in the classroom. I learned that even the strongest students in top colleges knew little about African American history. It is rarely a substantial part of history classes in American high schools. Our students came with a background in honors classes and multiple AP courses each year from American and international high schools, were able and confident. They had worked hard and believed their schools prepared them well. It didn’t take long for them to realize they knew little of America’s Black and native American history. Then they were uncomfortable and embarrassed. Florida students deserve access to an honest, truthful history. Banning the books and courses available to them is a very slippery slope.

Brenda Bricker, Venice

He is exactly right

How New College cultivates thinkers | Perspective, Jan. 22

The columnist Eric D. Nowak describes and defends the existing educational philosophy and practice of New College of Florida. As one who has earned four degrees from excellent schools and taught as a professor for 49 years at three major state universities, I feel qualified to assess his conclusions. Not only are they extraordinarily well expressed, they are spot-on accurate, powerful and valuable. The education process he describes is substantially different from and better than the one I was taught and did teach. The New College emphasis is on thinking and creative problem solving, not on what is already known and can be looked up. The author has issued a clarion call. We should heed it. We shouldn’t be contracting this methodology; we should be expanding it throughout the state system and to education in general everywhere. New College’s teaching philosophy and practice is not a problem; it is a solution.

Alan Balfour, Temple Terrace

A difficult curriculum

How New College cultivates thinkers | Perspective, Jan. 22

My daughter chose another small liberal arts college, with the same educational philosophy as New College, but out of state. Both her father and I graduated from Florida State in ‘62, and our whole family grew up and were educated totally by Florida public schools. As a St. Pete native, she wanted an out-of-state educational experience, but only with the New College standards of excellence and intellectual freedoms. Unfortunately, her tuition then, at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, was five times more than New College. I was astonished to learn how much more difficult her “less restricted” curriculum was than mine. Just like Eric D. Nowak recounted, she did original research and wrote two original thesis as an undergraduate. Her dad and me? We were not asked to write anything more challenging than a few short essays before receiving our undergraduate degrees from FSU.

Aila Erman, St. Petersburg

The opposite of critical thinking

How New College cultivates thinkers | Perspective, Jan. 22

Eric Nowak’s excellent piece about New College was right on point. The primary purpose of an undergraduate liberal arts experience is to teach students to think critically. To learn how to learn. Citizens of Florida should do just that with regard to Gov. Ron DeSantis and his “Onward Christian Soldiers” political movement. It’s one thing to talk about the classics quite another to use a small, private Christian institution as the model for change at one of the best public liberal arts colleges in America. What’s going on is the continuing campaign to meet what I see as three Florida Republican objectives. First, privatize everything. Second, “Christianize” everything. Third, put DeSantis in the White House. Thirteen years ago, my wife and I visited The Villages to look at housing. That visit was one of the most frightening experiences of our lives. Now, DeSantis provides an even more frightening scenario. What is the opposite of critical thinking, a classical education and an enlightened electorate? It is no-mask, no-gay, no-Andrew Warren, limited book subjects, backward, DeSantis think. The result of the New College absurdity will be many fewer talented students and faculty at the school. The reputation of Florida higher education will eventually plummet across the globe. Floridians need to wake up, and do so quickly. We aren’t that far away from our own bonfires fueled by math, science and history books.

David Nathanson, Tampa