Math Books Rejected for ‘Indoctrinating Students’ in Florida

In April 2022, the Florida Department of Education rejected 41% of new math books citing references to Critical Race Theory (CRT) among the reasons. In a statement, the Florida Department of Education said it “rejected publishers’ attempts to indoctrinate” students”.   Of the 41% of rejected textbooks, 21% were rejected for “incorporating prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies including CRT. Another 11% were rejected “because they do not properly align to Florida’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) standards.

In response to the math ban, Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis said, “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.”

In 2019. DeSantis issued an executive order to end the Common Core standards in education. His administration instead decided to develop their own education standards and called on textbook publishers to bid on proposed math and other instructional materials. The Common Core method requires kids to group numbers to solve math problems instead of the previous method of “carrying the one” to emphasize deeper math concepts.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) concepts were also listed as reasons for rejecting 41% of math textbooks. Republicans and conservative groups argue Critical Race Theory is embedded into the framework of SEL concepts. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, SEL “refers to a wide range of skills, attitudes, and behaviors that can affect student success in school and life. Consider the skills not necessarily measured by tests: critical thinking, emotion management, conflict resolution, decision making, teamwork”.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) identifies five competencies of SEL: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Critical Race Theory is a term often misused by Republicans and conservatives to instill fear. Critical Race Theory is a framework of legal analysis based on the idea that racism is embedded in US institutions. It was developed by a group of law professors in the 1980s.

The Chicago Defender spoke with activist and former educator, Matthew Kincaid about the Florida Math Ban, the misuse of the term, Critical Race Theory, and why these actions by Republicans are dangerous.

Matthew Kincaid is an educator and activist who has been leading anti-racism workshops for over fourteen years. Prior to founding Overcoming Racism, Matthew served as both a social studies teacher and school administrator in New Orleans, Louisiana. Matthew’s classroom practices focused on building self-esteem, cultural awareness, and literacy of the systems of oppression that students would have to navigate through as a vehicle to drive academic performance. As a school administrator, Kincaid leads a host of initiatives within his school and network from cultivating a positive school-wide culture, to restorative discipline practices, to implementing anti-racist and culturally responsive pedagogy. As an activist and organizer using the experience from the intersection of those three commitments to challenge the racial status quo of our communities, cities, and the nation.

The Florida math ban is just one of the restrictions on teaching accurate and relevant history from a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion perspective in the State. In late April 2022, DeSantis signed into law HB7, the Individual Freedom Act, also known as the “Stop the Wrongs to our Kids and Employees (W.O.K.E.) act. This act amends the 1962 Florida Civil Rights Act by defining mandatory DEI programs as unlawful discrimination. Under this new law, employees, associations, and organizations could face legal consequences for implementing mandatory DEI practices or programs.

Florida is a part of a growing list of states looking to ban or restrict topics of racism, sexism, LGBTQ+, Immigrant history, and more in schools and workplaces. Over 100 bills have been proposed in legislatures across the country.

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