Florida education commissioner: Why we must teach true history of communism in schools | Opinion

It is widely understood that those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it, and that is exactly why the true history of communism should be taught in public schools.

In Florida, we are taking the lead.

Beginning in the 2026-2027 school year, public school students will learn that 110 million people died under communist rule from 1900 to 1987, and that this horribly flawed political and economic philosophy has spawned misery and despair across the globe.

Sadly, even today, communist rule subjugates millions of innocent people.

Whether it’s North Korea, Venezuela, China, the former Soviet Union or any other communist regime, their fabled utopia is always around the next corner — but never comes.

Instead, populations are stripped of human rights and forced to suffer through poverty, starvation, suppression of speech and systemic lethal violence.

That’s why the Berlin Wall was erected. Not to keep people out, but to lock them in.

The same is true for Cuba. Just 90 miles south of Florida, Fidel Castro and his Marxist ideologues seized power and turned a prosperous nation into an island prison.

With promises of “equality for all,” they used the power of the state to crush dissent, along with the hopes, dreams, families and future generations of the very people they claimed to care for. Democracy was never an option. Escape was the only way out.

In places like Miami, where the reality of communism is well within living memory, incredible stories of survival and the human spirit breathe life into American communities, as do the memories of those who perished in search of freedom.

We cannot look past this historical nightmare. It is our moral duty to educate students about the history of communism, just as we educate them about the Holocaust and the hideous evil of Nazi Germany, the history of Japanese internment camps in the U.S. during World War II, the history of African Americans, including slavery, abolition, racism, segregation, and more.

Under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative sponsor Sen. Jay Collins, a retired Green Beret and Purple Heart recipient, Florida has taken the initiative to expand our state’s required instruction statute to include this critical subject matter.

And we are all better for it. With the signing of Senate Bill 1264, public school students will learn about the history of communist movements in the U.S., communist atrocities committed in foreign countries and the communist policies of Cuba and its ideological spread throughout Latin America, and the current threat of communism in the U.S. and to our allies today.

Students will learn about the events of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and other mass killings from communist governments, while engaging in comparative discussions of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, which conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy — the founding principles of America.

Moreover, the Florida Department of Education will prepare high-quality academic standards using input from individuals and organizations dedicated to preserving the memory of victims of communism.

All of this groundbreaking instruction will be taught in an age and developmentally appropriate manner, and with the highest standards of professionalism and accuracy.

Of course, there are naysayers. There are those who view communist monsters like Fidel Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Mao Zedong as counterculture icons, as if politically fashionable rather than a celebration of oppressive leaders and dictators.

In any case, people are free to disagree, though they would have no such freedom in a communist country.

Florida is not afraid to lead. This is not an accident — and neither is Florida’s growing moral legacy. Two years ago, Gov. DeSantis signed legislation establishing Nov. 7 as “Victims of Communism Day” and restoring Florida’s Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.

Along with this year’s education mandate, we are creating the Institute for Freedom in the Americas at Miami Dade College. Its mission will be to preserve the ideals of a free society, promote democracy and partner with the Adam Smith Center for Economic Freedom at Florida International University.

Manny Diaz, Jr., is Florida’s education commissioner.