Florida education agency rejects math books it claims contain Critical Race Theory – Orlando Sentinel

Florida rejected 42 math textbooks publishers wanted to sell to the state’s public schools, claiming the books contained “critical race theory” or other “prohibited topics” and “unsolicited strategies,” the Department of Education said Friday.

A press release announcing the move did not say which textbooks — many meant for elementary schools — had been rejected for containing CRT, nor provide examples of the lessons the education department found objectionable. Spokespeople for the education department and Gov. Ron DeSantis did not respond to requests for specific examples that prompted the decision.

A dozen other math books were rejected because they did not meet Florida’s new math standards and instead still followed Common Core, the previously adopted standards that DeSantis ordered removed from public schools soon after he won election, the department said in a press release.

Florida routinely vets textbooks before putting them on its approved list — which districts use to buy books for their schools — to make sure they align with state standards, or the benchmarks for what students should learn in each course and grade.

But the Friday afternoon announcement, with a headline that read “Florida Rejects Publishers’ Attempts to Indoctrinate Students,” was unusual.

The education department claimed 42 of the 132 math books submitted for consideration contained “critical race theory,” dubbed CRT, “social emotional learning” or other inappropriate topics. The department said it was alarmed that the books for elementary school students were the most problematic, mixing in “prohibited” subjects along with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The department released lists of the 132 textbooks submitted for consideration and the 78 approved and said the rejected books were “the most in Florida’s history.” But it did not provide information on why each of the 54 rejected ones did not meet with its approval.

Critical race theory, first proposed by legal scholars, says racism is embedded in the country’s institutions. Historically, the theory has been a law or graduate school subject and not one taught in public schools.

But DeSantis and other Republicans rallying against it say its tenets have seen into K-12 classrooms with the aim to make white children feel guilty and to teach children to hate the United States.

At DeSantis’ urging, the State Board of Education banned the teaching of CRT in June, and during its recent regular session the Florida Legislature passed a bill to enhance what he called his “anti-woke” position against CRT. Opponents of the bill said it was an attempt to prevent teaching of subjects such as slavery and racial discrimination.

In June, Chancellor Jacob Oliva, who oversees K-12 education at the education department, wrote to textbook publishers to remind them what Florida wanted: Math textbooks that align to the state’s new BEST Standards, adopted in 2020, and do not “incorporate unsolicited strategies, such as social emotional learning and culturally responsive teaching.”

The June 9 letter did not mention CRT, but the state board banned that concept in a vote the next day.

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The concept of “social and emotional learning” is popular in some schools, including Orange County Public Schools. OCPS describes it as a way to help students manage their emotions, set goals, show empathy for others and make responsible decisions.

But some critics of CRT view “social and emotional learning” as another way to slip in race-based lessons.

In statements, both DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said they were upset by what was found in the math books.

“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, adding he was grateful the department “conducted such a thorough vetting” of the textbooks.

Corcoran, a former GOP speaker of the Florida House, has also rallied against CRT and other “crazy liberal stuff” and vowed to keep it out of Florida schools.

“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,” he said in a statement Friday.

lpostal@orlandosentinel.com

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