Education officials in Florida have come under fire for putting “political theater” before teaching after they revealed four examples of the 54 math textbooks they rejected last week.
The state said it had refused to use the books due to “prohibited subjects,” including alleged references to critical race theory. However, on Friday, after pressure to explain the decisions, the education department released several images of math problems from the textbook with the offending segments highlighted.
In one example, a color graph shows levels of “racial bias” by age. Another example, under the heading “adding and subtracting polynomials”, begins with the words: “What? I? Racist? and uses the statistical results of a common survey of unconscious bias as an example for a set of mathematical problems.
The other examples refer to “social and emotional learning” or “social awareness,” concepts that conservative education activists say are a gateway to leftist ideology.
“Those examples were given without context and weren’t even elementary-level material,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, which represents more than 150,000 educators. “So it seems like it’s more about the smoke and mirrors of trying to achieve a political agenda than what we’re actually teaching our kids.”
Critics see Florida’s book ban as an extension of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “culture war” over the alleged indoctrination of children in schools.
He recently signed the state’s controversial “don’t say gay” law, officially the Parents’ Rights in Education Bill, which bans discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary classrooms.
His education department came under fire last week for announcing it had banned textbooks without providing supporting details, saying it was releasing the images “based on the volume of requests the department has received for examples of problematic elements of textbooks.” recently revised instructional materials. ”.
The department said the examples were not an exhaustive list and provided the images without descriptions or context.
“Social and emotional learning” has been attacked by conservatives. Quoted in the New York Times, Chris Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, linked social-emotional learning to a broader discussion of teaching race, gender, and sexuality in classrooms, calling it “a delivery mechanism for radical pedagogies such as the critical race”. gender theory and deconstructionism”.
Other content that Florida education leaders have opposed is children’s cartoons appearing on the side of textbook pages that encourage students to “learn together,” to have a “growth mindset” as they try to a new way to approach a problem when they were stuck, or to adopt a “math mindset” to help understand their feelings.
“Mathematics is about getting the right answer. It’s not about how you feel about the issue,” DeSantis said at a news conference earlier in the week.
In a statement, a spokesman said: “The [Florida education] The department continues to provide publishers with the opportunity to remedy all deficiencies identified during the review to ensure that Florida’s school districts and students have the widest selection of high-quality educational materials available to them.”
Teacher representatives, meanwhile, dismissed it as “political drama” by the governor, who they say is focused on the wrong priorities.
“What worries educators and parents is that if we don’t have teachers in our classrooms or bus drivers to get kids to school on time, then our kids aren’t learning math or any other subject,” Spar said.
We expect more than 9,000 open teaching positions by the end of the year, according to the state board he appoints, and we also have a severe shortage of bus drivers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers and custodians. We have heard the governor say or do nothing about it.
“This kind of slapstick and political theater going on in these textbooks is exactly what is driving people away from the profession.”