Florida education officials have come under fire for putting ‘political theatre’ on teaching after revealing four examples among the 54 math textbooks they rejected last week.
The state said it refused to use the books because of “prohibited subject matter,” including alleged references to critical race theory. On Friday, however, after pressure to explain the rulings, the Education Department released several images of math problems from the textbook with the offending segments highlighted.
In one example, a colored graph shows levels of “racial bias” by age. Another example, under the heading “Adding and Submitting Polynomials,” begins with the words: “What? Me? Racist?” and uses the statistical results of a joint survey of unconscious bias as an example for a set of math problems.
The other examples refer to “social and emotional learning” or “social consciousness”, concepts that conservative education activists say are a gateway to leftist ideology.
“These examples were given without context and were not 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 smoke and mirrors of trying to accomplish a political agenda than what we teach our children.”
Florida’s book ban is widely seen by critics as an extension of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “culture war” against the supposed indoctrination of children in schools.
He recently signed the state’s controversial ‘don’t say gay’ law — officially the Parental Rights in Education Bill — which prohibits discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms. elementary.
Its education department was criticized last week for announcing it had banned the textbooks without giving supporting details, and it said it was releasing the images “based on the volume of requests that the department received for examples of problematic elements of the recently revised teaching materials. ”.
The department said the examples were not an exhaustive list and provided the images without description 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 about teaching about race, gender, and sexuality in the classroom, and called it “an enforcement mechanism for radical pedagogies such as critical race”. gender theory and deconstructionism”.
Other content Florida education officials have objected to is cartoons of children appearing next to textbook pages encouraging students to ‘learn together’, have ‘a growth mindset’ trying a new way to solve a problem when they were stuck, or adopting a “math mindset” to help understand their feelings.
“Mathematics is about getting the right answer. It’s not about what you think the problem is,” DeSantis said at a press conference earlier in the week.
In a statement, a spokesperson said: “The [Florida education] The department continues to give publishers the opportunity to address any deficiencies identified in the review to ensure the broadest selection of high-quality educational materials are available to Florida school districts and students.
Teachers’ representatives, meanwhile, have called it “political theater” by the governor, who they say focuses 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 don’t ‘teach math or any other subject,” Spar said.
“We expect more than 9,000 teaching vacancies by the end of the year, according to the state board he appoints, and on top of that we have a massive shortage of bus drivers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers and guards. We heard the governor say or do nothing about it.
“This kind of antics and political theater that takes place on these textbooks is exactly what drives people to leave the profession.”