- The Washington Times - Friday, April 29, 2022

Florida education officials say they are reinstating nine “woke math” textbooks for K-12 students after publishers agreed to remove left-wing materials.

The Florida Department of Education, which initially rejected 54 textbooks over references to racism and students’ feelings about studying math together, announced the reversal for some of the books on its website.

“Publishers are aligning their instructional materials to state standards and removing woke content, allowing the department to add nine more books to the state adoption list over the past 11 days,” the department’s statement reads.

Florida’s education department did not share any information about the restored books or respond Friday to a request for comment.

The department has said it doesn’t want to identify problematic textbooks while it is negotiating with publishers to adjust them.

McGraw Hill, whose “Reveal Math K-5” was rejected for encouraging students to discuss how they feel about solving problems, told The Washington Times in an email Friday that it met with Florida education officials this week to discuss changes.

“The dialogue was productive,” said Tyler Reed, senior director of communications. “We will continue to engage with the DOE in the coming days as we work to address their concerns.”

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced April 17 that Florida rejected 54 of 132 math books that publishers submitted for K-12 instruction next year — including 71% of proposed K-5 books — for not meeting state benchmarks or for containing examples of critical race theory and social-emotional learning.

Conservatives see SEL, which emphasizes students’ feelings about studying math together, as a Trojan horse for maintaining left-wing efforts to “decolonize” the right-or-wrong nature of mathematics of perceived White male bias.

They say it’s the publishers, not Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who politicized the process by adding the materials in the first place.

“The textbooks DeSantis has put on the chopping block incorporate elements of Common Core and social emotional learning, which DeSantis rightfully believes have no place in mathematics textbooks,” said Chris Talgo, a research fellow at the conservative Heartland Institute in Illinois.

Last week, Florida officials released four images with examples of “woke math” from some of the banned texts but said copyright law prevented them from naming them.

The examples included a book page that read, “What? Me? Racist?” in a section on addition and subtraction.

Another image contained a polynomial math problem that asks students to analyze racial prejudice data from the Implicit Association Test, a controversial 1998 psychological study that purports to identify subconscious and unconscious bias against Black individuals.

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

Some leading textbook publishers have defended the inclusion of content that goes beyond right-and-wrong answers.

They say multicultural students perform better in mathematics when they learn relationally and apply the lessons to their experiences.

McGraw Hill’s website defines SEL “as the process through which young people and adults acquire and apply knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

“Across the board, parents, teachers and administrators recognize the significant impact SEL has on academic achievement and student motivation, and we are committed to providing SEL resources that support everyone connected to the classroom,” Sean Ryan, president of McGraw Hill’s school group, said in an online statement.

They have also pushed back on Florida for not giving reasons for all of the banned titles.

Last Friday, a Macmillan Learning spokesperson told ABC News, “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.”

Parental rights advocates say injecting liberal politics into math divides students by teaching them to explain their struggles with math in terms of racism.

“Sadly, it’s now impossible to find a discipline that has not been impacted by toxic ideologies,” said Nicole Neily, president of the conservative Parents Defending Education.

Andrea Haitz, a member of Mesa County’s District 51 school board in Colorado, said local parents recently sent her images of a “woke math” textbook in California as something to watch out for in other states.

“Many are realizing it’s important who we elect to the state board of education,” said Ms. Haitz, who was elected in November after running for office as a concerned mother of three.

“Florida has it right,” she said.

Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education at the free speech advocacy group PEN America, criticized the state’s decision to share online the result of negotiations with the publishers that “are usually conducted in private.”

“By plastering a graphic on their website saying that publishers are ‘removing woke content’ to meet the state’s demands, the Florida Department of Education continues to politicize the process of textbook adoption and to brag about censoring material in ways that have nothing to do with improving math education,” Mr. Young said Friday.

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

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