US Vice President Kamala Harris criticized Florida "extremists" on Friday for backing educational guidelines that taught "revisionist history" about slavery in the United States.
Florida's board of education approved new guidelines this week with "benchmark clarifications," including one for middle school students that states "instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit."
Harris, the first Black and Asian-American woman to serve as vice president, flew to Florida, a political swing state whose governor, Ron DeSantis, is running for the Republican presidential nomination, to deliver a blistering speech condemning the new guidelines.
"Adults know what slavery really involved. It involved rape. It involved torture. It involved taking a baby from their mother. It involved some of the worst examples of ... depriving people of humanity in our world," she said.
"How is it that anyone could suggest that, in the midst of these atrocities, that there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization?" she said.
The board of education approved the new teaching guidelines for kindergarten through high school on Wednesday. Florida's education commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr., said during the board meeting in Orlando that the guidelines go in to the "tougher subjects" of slavery and racist violence, as appropriate by age.
William Allen and Frances Presley Rice, both members of the working group that developed the new guidelines, said in a statement on Thursday that the new language regarding slaves learning specialized skills was meant to show they were not merely victims.
Harris lambasted the information in the guidelines as false propaganda.
"We teach our children, not only to tell the truth, but to seek knowledge and truth," Harris said.
"These extremist so-called leaders should model what we know to be the correct and right approach if we really are invested in the wellbeing of our children. Instead they dare to push propaganda to our children," she said.
Ron Desantis' role in changing Florida's education
The approval of the guidelines follows moves by DeSantis to combat what he has labeled "woke indoctrination."
DeSantis, who trails former President Donald Trump in polling for the Republican nomination, has taken on "wokeness" as a key theme for his campaign. The governor, who also has battled Walt Disney over its criticism of a Florida law banning classroom discussion of sexuality and gender, accused Harris of being misleading about Florida's standards.
“Democrats like Kamala Harris have to lie about Florida's educational standards to cover for their agenda of indoctrinating students and pushing sexual topics onto children," he said in a statement. "Florida stands in their way and we will continue to expose their agenda and their lies."
Harris said teachers should not be told by politicians "that they should be teaching ... revisionist history."
President Joe Biden, with Harris as his vice president, is running for re-election in 2024.