On the anniversary of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, DeSantis signs a bill requiring the teaching of communism history in Florida

Havana Cuba
Malecon in Havana. By Seán Kinane.

By Ryan Dailey ©2024 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Flanked by veterans who attacked Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a measure that will lead to the history of communism being taught in grades as low as kindergarten.

The governor, standing behind a placard that read “anti-communism education,” touted lessons that will be required under the bill.

“We’re going to tell the truth about communism in the state of Florida. We’re going to tell the truth about the evils of communism,” DeSantis said at the Hialeah Gardens bill-signing event.

State lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the measure (SB 1264) during the 2024 legislative session that ended last month. Under the bill, lessons on the history of communism will be added to required instruction in public schools starting in the 2026-27 school year.

The lessons would have to be “age appropriate and developmentally appropriate” and incorporate various topics related to communism, including the “history of communism in the United States and domestic communist movements” and “their histories and tactics.”

“Atrocities committed in foreign countries under the guidance of communism,” also would be required as part of the lessons. Additionally, the curriculum would have to include a comparative “discussion of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, which conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States.”

State Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. acknowledged that the lessons would be “spread across” all grades. The state education department will be tasked with drawing up academic standards for the lessons.

“All of this will be spread across the curriculum, K (kindergarten) through 12 (twelfth grade). And it will be done in a manner that is age-appropriate, like we do with all of our standards,” Diaz said Wednesday.

DeSantis signed the bill on the 63rd anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and was joined at the bill-signing event by people who fought in the invasion in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government led by Fidel Castro.

Rafael Montalvo, president of Brigade 2506 Veterans Association, was among the people who addressed the crowd at the Hialeah Gardens Museum. The museum features a building funded through the Florida Department of State that was constructed to honor “the noble efforts of the 2506 Assault Brigade during the Bay of Pigs Invasion.”

“The most important fight against communism is the one that’s done in the schoolrooms,” Montalvo said. “That’s where the battle is happening right now. And this is going to be a tool that’s going to give us the victory in that area.”

Florida’s public school students currently can encounter lessons on communism in high-school social studies classes and in a seventh-grade civics and government course. A high-school U.S. government class that is a requirement for graduation also includes 45 minutes of instruction on “Victims of Communism Day.”

Florida also previously had a course titled “Americanism vs. Communism,” which was required for public high school students between 1961 and 1991.

With the state set to bolster its communism history offerings in schools, Diaz highlighted how anti-communism sentiment is strong in South Florida.

The measure authorizes the education department to seek input from “any individual who was a victim of communism or any state or nationally recognized organization dedicated to the victims of communism,” as it crafts standards for the curriculum.

Diaz said he wants other students throughout the state to learn about the history of communism from people who experienced it directly.

“Unfortunately not everybody across the state has that opportunity from their family or from others who saw it firsthand, who fought it first hand.” Diaz said.

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