No feelings in math: How Florida is defending its rejection of textbooks

Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration are not offering specifics about content they say violates Florida's K-12 standards.
By: | April 19, 2022

Math may make many students anxious, frustrated or depressed but Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis insists the subject is not about “feelings.”

That’s how DeSantis is defending his state’s controversial rejection of dozens of math textbooks, many written for the early grades, over the supposed inclusion of critical race theory and social-emotional learning. Despite saying the banished textbooks could potentially “indoctrinate” students, DeSantis and other officials have not detailed any of the specific content that they claim violates Florida state standards.

DeSantis’ administration is instead focused on students’ strong academic performance, he said during an appearance Monday at a Jacksonville hospital. “Math is about getting the right answer … it’s not about how you feel about the problem,” DeSantis said. “We don’t want things like math to have some of these other concepts introduced. It’s not been proven to be effective and, quite frankly, it takes our eye off the ball.”

Out of 132 math textbooks submitted, the Florida Department of Education rejected 54 (41%) for “references to critical race theory (CRT), inclusions of Common Core and the unsolicited addition of social-emotional learning (SEL) in mathematics,” the agency said Friday in a news release. The textbooks include titles from some of the leading publishers in K-12 education.

The state rejected more than two-thirds of the math textbooks submitted for grades K-5 for not being aligned with Florida’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) standards.

The state’s list of the 50-plus rejected books shows more than two dozen were flagged for including “special topics.” Critical race theory, culturally responsive teaching, social justice and social-emotional learning are the four items listed in the Florida state standards as special topics.

Florida State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani obtained the list of books and has shared it on social media:

In a related tweet, DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, provided an example of objectionable content with a screenshot of a worksheet used, and then yanked, by a Missouri school district. The assignment, which was given to ninth-graders, asked students to solve a list of equations with questions about the life of the African American poet Maya Angelou. The questions refer to sexual abuse and prostitution.

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