Publisher, citing Florida law, scrubs mention that Rosa Parks was a Black woman from textbook
Studies Weekly produced multiple versions of its social studies curriculum to appeal to Florida, softening or removing references to race — even when recounting the life of the pioneering Parks.
Rosa Parks being a Black woman is crucial to her role in America’s civil rights movement, but one textbook publisher dismissed that fact to comply with a Florida rule.
Textbooks play a significant role in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ fight against what he calls “woke indoctrination” in the nation’s public schools, especially when it comes to issues of race and gender, according to The New York Times.
As the Republican governor’s administration targets his state’s social studies curriculum, a small army of Florida experts, educators, political activists and parents have combed thousands of pages of book text as part of the review process.
Critical race theory and “social emotional learning” — which aims to support students in cultivating positive mindsets, yet is viewed by the DeSantis administration as unrelated to basic academics — are explicitly targeted by the state’s guidelines for evaluating textbooks.
“Normally, a state adoption is a pretty boring process that a few of us care about,” said former publishing executive turned education consultant Jeff Livingston, The Times reported, “but there are a lot of people watching this because the stakes are so high.”
One publisher, Studies Weekly, went as far as producing multiple versions of its social studies curriculum, softening or removing references to race — even when recounting the life of civil rights pioneer Parks — to appeal to Florida.
Studies Weekly primarily caters to younger students, with an emphasis on science and social studies. The publisher distributes short lessons in weekly pamphlets used in 45,000 schools nationwide, including in Florida, where primary schools use its social studies curriculum.
The New York Times compared three renditions of the company’s Rosa Parks story intended for first graders: A lesson currently taught in Florida, an early version produced for the state textbook review and a second, revised version.
The current lesson, which describes segregation, claims, “The law said African Americans had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person wanted to sit down.”
However, the original draft about Parks prepared for the textbook evaluation only slightly references race. “She was told to move to a different seat because of the color of her skin,” the lesson teaches, The Times reported.
The revised version fails to address race or explain segregation and reads, “She was told to move to a different seat.”
Studies Weekly made similar adjustments to a fourth-grade, post-Civil War, segregation legislation lesson, but Florida’s Department of Education claims the publisher may have gone too far. The department said any publisher who “avoids the topic of race when teaching the civil rights movement, slavery, segregation, etc. would not be adhering” to the state’s law.
The state agency also said it had already denied the publisher, citing the company’s submission’s bureaucratic error as the reason.
Still, Studies Weekly maintains it was trying to adhere to Florida’s regulations, including the Stop W.O.K.E. Act, which forbids teaching that would cause students to feel regret, responsibility or anguish for what their ancestors did.
Following inquiries from The Times, the company took down the second, revised version of the curriculum from its website and contended it was no longer participating in the state’s review.
The publisher has since returned to the first iteration of the revised curriculum, which claimed Rosa Parks changed seats on that fateful 1955 day “because of the color of her skin.”
Florida — which hasn’t determined which social studies textbooks the state will accept or how the chosen resources may address historical racial problems — is expected to announce its selections in the upcoming weeks.
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