- The Washington Times - Friday, April 22, 2022

Florida education officials have released four images of “woke math” in textbooks they rejected last week for use in K-12 public schools.

The state’s Department of Education rejected 54 of 132 titles that textbook publishers submitted for use next year, including 71% of proposed elementary school books, because they did not meet state benchmarks or they contained examples of critical race theory and social-emotional learning.

Florida education officials said Friday that copyright law prevented them from publicizing the names and publishers of the textbooks that contain the four images, which reference “racial prejudice” in math problems and how students feel about working together on the subject.

“At this time, those who have submitted textbooks for consideration still own the material,” spokesperson Cassie Palelis told The Washington Times in an email.

A disclaimer posted with the images on the department’s website said officials are giving publishers “the opportunity to remediate all deficiencies identified during the review.”

“Based on the volume of requests the department has received for examples of problematic elements of the recently reviewed instructional materials, the following are examples provided to the department by the public and presented no conflict in sharing them,” the disclaimer reads in part.

The first image contains a polynomial math problem that asks students to analyze racial prejudice data from the Implicit Association Test, a widely challenged 1998 psychological study that purported to identify subconscious and unconscious bias against Black individuals.

In two vertical bar graphs that break down the results by age and political persuasion, the problem tells public school students that people older than 65 and conservatives have the most racial prejudice.

The second image, containing an introduction to polynomials that appears to come from the same textbook, refers to the “differences among groups” as “intriguing.”

The third and fourth images contain examples of SEL, a pedagogical emphasis on students’ feelings about studying math.

“Students build proficiency with social awareness as they practice with empathizing with classmates,” states an SEL objective in the third image.

The fourth image says the SEL objectives in each math lesson seek “to build student agency by focusing on students’ social and emotional learning.”

Conservatives see SEL lessons as a Trojan horse for introducing discussions about the alleged bias of mathematics against multicultural students, teaching them to explain their struggles in terms of racism rather than pushing them to succeed.

Leading educational publishers McGraw Hill, Cengage Learning, Savvas Learning Company and Macmillan Learning are included on Florida’s list of rejected textbooks.

Some of them defended their materials Friday.

Savvas has a long and successful track record of working with the Florida Department of Education to ensure that our instructional materials deliver high-quality, research-based pedagogy designed intentionally to align with the current Florida standards for mathematics,” a Savvas spokesperson told ABC News.

A Macmillan Learning spokesperson said: “We were surprised and disappointed to learn that a statistics text from Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishers (the Advanced Placement and 9-12 High School division of Macmillan Learning) was not on the approved list of titles from the state of Florida with no explanation.”

Some scholars have accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, of rejecting the books without providing adequate explanations for rejecting each of them.

“It is irresponsible to reject materials while refusing to provide actual examples of what is objectionable,” said James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association.

“This is akin to Joseph McCarthy referring to lists of communists in his pocket,” the historian added.

Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education at the New York-based free speech advocacy group PEN America, said Friday that Florida’s examples show only that the concerns have been “terribly overstated.”

“The few examples released by the Florida Department of Education obscure more than they explain,” Mr. Young said. 

“And we still don’t know why the vast majority of these textbooks were rejected, including six textbooks that according to the state’s own rubric contained no ‘special concepts’ but were rejected anyway,” he added. “The Florida DOE has a lot of explaining to do.”

Critics say CRT and SEL lessons have crept into math textbooks in recent years as part of an effort to purge math of bias toward white male rationality.

“The premise of this movement is that current K-12 math instruction is irreparably infused with racism and designed to reinforce existing power dynamics in society,” said Phil Magness, director of research and education at the libertarian American Institute for Economic Research in Massachusetts.

“They then aim to ‘decolonize’ instruction by reorienting toward explicit progressive political activism,” Mr. Magness added. “Usually this is achieved by inserting overtly political messages into textbook examples and problem sets and using them to convey social, environmental, and economic commentaries about societal inequity.”

Quisha King, senior director of education and membership at the conservative parental rights group Moms for America, said the textbooks show that the administration of Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis “is not being hyperbolic in their assessment of woke ideology in textbooks.”

“These books are not even trying to hide their curriculum,” said Ms. King, who is Black.

She said “Thinking Mathematically,” a text from the Savvas Learning Company that Florida has restricted, contains a section on new math problems with this sentence: “New applications include student-loan debt, movie rental options, measuring racial prejudice, and many more.”

“How exactly do you ‘measure’ racial prejudice? This is just more evidence of CRT being deeply embedded into K-12 schools across America,” Ms. King said.

Sheri Few, president of the conservative U.S. Parents Involved in Education, said Florida is just the first state to target the “culturally relevant pedagogy” that many public school districts have increasingly provided to teachers in subscription-only online resources.

“Florida is setting precedent for other states and taking the bold steps necessary to root out indoctrination of America’s children,” Ms. Few said.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide

Sponsored Stories