USA/April 21, 2022/By: Melissa Pérez-Carrillo. Sarasota Herald-Tribune/Source: https://www.usatoday.com/
The Florida Department of Education rejected more than 50 mathematics textbooks – about 40% of those submitted – for failing to meet Florida’s new learning standards or “contained prohibited topics” that included references to critical race theory.
In its news release late Friday, the department announced it had disapproved what it said was a record number of math textbooks – 54 of 134 – submitted by publishers.
More than half the disallowed textbooks incorporated “prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including CRT,” while others were not allowed because publishers “rebranded” Common Core Standards.
The titles of any textbooks considered unacceptable were not disclosed by state officials. Most textbooks that will not be allowed for use by Florida public schools were for students in elementary grades, kindergarten through fifth grade.
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The announcement comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken a lead role nationally in Republican efforts to aggressively push back against liberal cultural values and “woke indoctrination.”
The headline in the press release over the banned textbooks emphasized DeSantis’ stance: “Florida Rejects Publishers’ Attempts to Indoctrinate Students.”
“It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students,” DeSantis said in a statement.
He said he was “grateful” that Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and his department “have conducted such a thorough vetting of these textbooks to ensure they comply with the law.”
In praising DeSantis’ leadership, Corcoran said, “we continue to reinforce parents’ rights by focusing on providing their children with a world-class education without the fear of indoctrination or exposure to dangerous and divisive concepts in our classrooms.”
State Democrats condemned the move and demanded the state release the list of banned textbooks.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani called it part of the Republican Party’s agenda to eliminate critical thinking in schools.
“They’re accusing some invisible enemy of indoctrination. Meanwhile, they’re the ones indoctrinating students by attempting to censor mathematic textbooks,” Eskamani said.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith tweeted: “The governor “has turned our classrooms into political battlefields, and this is just the beginning.”
“They haven’t shown us what’s inside the books that they claim is critical race theory indoctrination, and there’s a reason they won’t show us, because it’s not there,” Smith said in an interview.
Eskamani, who said she requested the list of banned textbooks, tweeted: “I wonder if these math books highlighted statistics of racial disparities & that’s what they don’t like?
“If those statistics make you uncomfortable, maybe do something about it instead of erase them?”
The education department told publishers in June 2021 to align textbook content with state laws by not including “culturally responsive teaching.” Publishers can appeal the rejection and can revise book submissions.
In 2019, DeSantis issued an executive order that eliminated Common Core standards as part of school curriculum requirements.
Common Core is a set of standards in reading, writing, and math adopted by states nationwide. The standards are intended to ensure college readiness. They were developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, not the federal government.
Florida began implementing them in 2010, then made revisions in 2014, renaming them Florida Standard and coupling them with a new series of standardized tests. Both Common Core and Florida Standards outline what a student should know at the end of each grade level.
DeSantis made the elimination of Common Core a campaign issue during the 2018 governor’s race against Democrat Andrew Gillum.
DeSantis is expected to sign the Stop WOKE Act, which restricts how race is discussed in schools, colleges and workplaces after lawmakers voted for the legislation in March.
The legislation prohibits any teaching that could make students feel they bear personal responsibility for historic wrongs because of their race, color, sex or national origin.
Lawmakers voted in March to pass the legislation along party lines, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats opposing it.
The measure responded to a drumbeat from conservative media that has condemned critical race theory, which examines the role discrimination has played in shaping American history and modern society.
Although critical race theory is not taught in Florida schools, DeSantis says it threatens to influence how history and social science are taught. He got the Florida Board of Education last year to specifically ban its use in schools.
Democrats, particularly Black lawmakers, said the legislation is intended to diminish the inequities faced by minorities in the United States, this country, largely because it could make white students feel uncomfortable.