With great fanfare and very little evidence, the Florida Department of Education banned more than 50 new math textbooks for containing “indoctrinating information” on “prohibited topics.” Specific examples of offensive material are still hard to come by, which should anger parents who want better schools, not more crass politics.
Where are the examples of “indoctrination,” “prohibited topics” and “divisive concepts” that threaten public schools in Florida and have so rattled Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran?
Barring proof that publishers are now pushing 3 + 3 equals CRT, the decision amounts to a nod to fringe politics. It clearly hasn’t helped school districts now thrown into a tizzy as they scramble for instructional material for the upcoming school year.
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We believe parents want better educational opportunities in Florida’s public schools, not the political theater that only undermines public school instruction. We are not convinced that the governor or his education department share that view.
The math book decision certainly fits the governor’s push to gain greater control over Florida school districts. In 2020, he removed Common Core, educational standards once championed by former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Last year, he banned the teaching of critical race theory, an academic concept that grew out of a 1970 legal analysis of the nation’s racial landscape but isn’t taught in any K-12 schools.
Just last month, Gov. DeSantis signed into law HB 1467, legislation that sets term limits for school board members and mandates school boards open the process of reviewing textbooks for purchase to the public under the auspices of “curriculum transparency.” That law also requires the state Department of Education to publish an annual list of books that failed to meet standards, including the reasons behind the decisions. To date, the department’s explanations for rejecting the math books seem both extraordinarily vague and contrary to the letter and spirit of the new law.
Again, transparency is essential. Otherwise onlookers, from concerned parents to enraged political observers, will fill the void with their own reasons, including the notion that the change benefits favored publishers. Currently, Accelerate Learning, a Houston, Texas-based firm, is the only publisher meeting the new standards and its book, STEMscopes Florida Math will be the only book available for regular math classes.
Facing harsh scrutiny, the department released the titles of the offending books and their publishers. Still unknown are the words, photos, graphics or sources that somehow would indoctrinate young students to embrace CRT or change their gender. The hope is that information comes out in the department’s appeal process, if not sooner.
In the meantime, the ban has thrown many school districts that had already chosen books for the fall and are now scrambling to adjust. It wasn’t immediately clear if Palm Beach County has any of the now-rejected books, but school officials say the district has already reviewed, approved and paid for new math textbooks for the upcoming school year.
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Parents should demand the department follow the new law, if only insofar as providing much needed “curriculum transparency” in evaluating textbooks. In an increasingly complex and diverse world, Florida’s schoolchildren deserve the best educational material possible, not one filtered through a particular political dogma. Unfortunately, in trying to “own the libs,” state leaders are shortchanging students.
“Math is about the right answer,” DeSantis said in Jacksonville last Monday. “We want kids to learn to think so they get the right answer. It’s not about how you feel about the problem or about introducing some of these other things. ”
Right now there aren’t enough answers from DeSantis.