Florida education department explains ban of math textbooks due to racial content

The state banned 41% of textbooks reviewed for student use due to their inclusion of critical race theory (CRT) and other educational frameworks on which Gov. Ron DeSantis is cracking down.

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The Florida Department of Education received a surge of demands from media outlets and the public, seeking explanation for its decision to reject more than 40% of the math textbooks it recently reviewed for student use. The ban follows new state laws that prohibit many topics of race within educational curricula.

As reported by the Miami Herald, the department’s response came on April 21, around a week after it sent out a news release on April 15 which noted that 54 of the 132 reviewed textbooks, or 41%, were “impermissible with either Florida’s new standards or contained prohibited topics.”

In the department’s initial explanation, it said that things constituting grounds for rejection “included references to Critical Race Theory (CRT), inclusions of Common Core, and the unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in mathematics.”

The department elaborated further in the follow-up release, providing examples including a color-coded bar graph in an unidentified textbook that reportedly visualizes how “levels of racial bias can vary by age group,” according to the Herald

The outlet reported that another example showed references to SEL, which is “methodology wherein students try to get in touch with their emotions and demonstrate empathy for others.”

At the same time as the state’s public response to demands for explanation, it concurrently sent emails directly to textbook publishers informing them of what they must change in the books and giving them a two-week time frame to complete the amendments in order to be approved, according to the Herald. Per the report, student textbooks are reviewed every five years. 

The series of laws cracking down on racial discussions in educational settings were passed by state lawmakers earlier in 2022, reported the Associated Press, and were signed into law on Friday, April 22 by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses the crowd before publicly signing HB7, “individual freedom,” also dubbed the “stop woke” bill during a news conference at Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., on Friday, April 22, 2022. DeSantis also signed two other bills into laws including one regarding the “big tech” bill signed last year but set aside due to a court ruling, and the special districts bill, which relates to the Reedy Creek Improvement District. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP)

Per the outlet, DeSantis’ aim is to ban “instruction that says members of one race are inherently racist, and that they should feel guilt for past actions committed by others of the same race,” the idea that race is essential in determining a privileged or oppressed social status, and more.

According to the Herald, the state claims in its press release that publishers were made aware of the rules for what was acceptable content in textbooks prior to submission.

“It is unfortunate that several publishers, especially at the elementary school grade levels, have ignored this clear communication and have attempted to slip rebranded instructional materials based on Common Core Standards into Florida classrooms, while others have included prohibited and divisive concepts such as the tenants (sic) of CRT or other unsolicited strategies of indoctrination — despite FDOE’s prior notification,” the state department reported, per the outlet.

Conversely, the Herald was told by an anonymous media representative for one of the publishers that they weren’t notified of their rejection. “We learned about all of this basically at around the same time that everyone else did,” the source said.

“Did they point out any specific pages or passages that had material that was not allowed? No. Nothing,” the anonymous representative continued.

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