‘They Won’t Tell Us What They Say’: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Under Pressure to Provide Examples Validating Why More Than 40 Math Books Were Rejected Over Critical Race Theory

The Florida Department of Education has rejected more than 50 math textbooks for the next school year for not meeting its curriculum standards or containing prohibited topics, including what the state claims is critical race theory.

However, they’ve left many in the dark who are eager to learn exactly how math books fit into the critical race theory war.

The department has removed 41 percent of the 132 math textbooks on the list for K-12 schools, the FDOE announced on Friday. It reflects the most rejections in Florida’s history.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 24: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at The Rosen Shingle Creek on February 24, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. CPAC, which began in 1974, is an annual political conference attended by conservative activists and elected officials. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Officials said 42 of the books include the “unsolicited addition” of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and critical race theory. Fourteen of those also follow the Common Core teaching standards instead of the state’s new Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards.

Officials said a dozen other books just did not align with the B.E.S.T. Standards.

“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,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in an April 15 statement.

Although the FDOE included the books that made the adoption list, it has not provided the names of the books that were rejected or examples of the content.

However, state Rep. Anna V. Eskamani said the FDOE sent her a list of all the publishers who applied, which she made public on Twitter on Monday.

The textbooks are reviewed by subject every five years and the materials must meet the curriculum standards.

Florida eliminated the Common Core standards in February 2020. According to Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, Common Core focuses on strategies and logic in finding the answers, while the new math curriculum focuses on whole number arithmetic and getting the correct answer.

According to Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, SEL helps students “apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others.”

Education Week described the widely misunderstood concept last year: Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.

The basic tenets of critical race theory, or CRT, emerged out of a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970s and early 1980s created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, among others.

Progressive lawmakers in Florida and elsewhere point out that the graduate school-level concept of CRT is not being taught in K-12 schools but rather it is the latest culture war issue conservatives are using to energize their base.

Since last January, Republicans in 41 states have moved to restrict critical race theory “indoctrination” in schools or censor how race and discrimination is being taught.

The Florida State Board of Education voted to ban critical race from theory being taught in state schools in June 2021. The Florida Legislature also approved the DeSantis-backed “Stop WOKE Act,” which would ban critical race theory concepts by law in K-12 schools when DeSantis signs it.

Some state Democrats, who are outnumbered in the Legislature, voiced their opposition to the department’s decision on Friday.

“@EducationFL just announced they’re banning dozens of math textbooks they claim “indoctrinate” students with CRT. They won’t tell us what they are or what they say b/c it’s a lie,” House Rep. Carlos G. Smith said.

“#DeSantis has turned our classrooms into political battlefields and this is just the beginning.”

One example provided by DeSantis’ spokesperson Christina Pushaw highlights a math lesson from a public school in Missouri that included questions about Maya Angelou’s past. Including questions about abuse and prostitution.

Rep. Smith wasn’t buying, it. Calling the example an attempt to deflect in a tweet.

“[DeSantis] had three days to provide basic info on the 54 math books he banned from schools for allegedly ‘indoctrinating’ kids with CRT. The best his propaganda machine could do was deflect to a Missouri district that apologized for a homework assignment they didn’t approve.”

The FDOE is currently accepting bids from publishers for social studies textbooks, which are up for review next in the state.

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