Where Things Stand: Those DeSantis-Banned Textbooks Teach Kids To Be Kind And Acknowledge That Black Mathematicians Exist

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MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 26: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a press conference at the Miami Dade College’s North Campus on January 26, 2022 in Miami, Florida. The Governor discussed the recent decision made by the... MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 26: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a press conference at the Miami Dade College’s North Campus on January 26, 2022 in Miami, Florida. The Governor discussed the recent decision made by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to revoke emergency use authorization for Regeneron and Eli Lilly monoclonal antibody treatments. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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The horror.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and his office have been incredibly tight-lipped about what exactly the state education department found to be so appalling in those 54 math textbooks that the state decided to immediately ban them from public schools.

In announcing its decision, the Florida Department of Education declared a handful of the books included “prohibited topics,” like Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). Some of the other books were supposedly rejected — meaning the state will no longer purchase them for Florida schools — in an attempt to weed out Common Core from the state curriculum.

But DeSantis’ press secretary made it pretty clear that the DeSantis administration is just tossing a handful of concepts the right-wing hates into a bucket and labeling it Critical Race Theory. In a tweet on Monday, she encouraged any parent who wants to teach their kids “Woke Math, where ‘2+2=4’ is white supremacy” to go ahead and purchase the books themselves.

DeSantis sort of nodded in this direction as well on Tuesday, speaking at an event in The Villages: “There is a movement to say math should be not about getting the right answer, but more about social and emotional response,” DeSantis said. “It doesn’t matter how you feel about the math problem. It matters whether you can solve the math problem.”

The issue is that SEL is a widely accepted education and childhood development structure that’s incorporated into many elementary-aged subjects because it teaches kids how to think critically and manage emotions while learning the material. It’s been widely popular in public schools since the 1990s.

And its inclusion in DeSantis’ crosshairs is just another examples of how bad faith these attacks on the education system from the right have become — Critical Race Theory is a graduate level academic framework that looks at history through the lens of systemic racism. A slew of red states across the U.S., including Florida, have hijacked the existence of such a phenomenon to fear monger about wokeness in schools, passing laws that outlaw discussions of race that might make students feel “discomfort” in the classroom or the workplace. DeSantis is just dumping SEL and Common Core into that bucket as well.

The actual content of the banned books highlights just how far the right-wing has gone to manufacture outrage around issues that don’t even exist. After Florida released a list of the 26 math textbooks banned for “prohibited topics,” Popular Information tracked down several of the books to comb through for anything that might smell like CRT/SEL/Common Core (or what the far-right things those things are). The results are truly laughable and you should read the piece for yourself here, but some highlights:

  • One of the books rejected was an elementary school math textbook that has sections in various chapters that encourage students to “work together” and “listen to our friends and teachers” while working on math problems. It also has a series called “Math is… Mindset” that asks students questions like: “How can you show that you value the ideas of others?” and “What helps you understand your partner’s ideas?” Truly terrible stuff.
  • One of the 8th grade level math books deemed inappropriate has a repeated section throughout the textbook that gives students little factoids about mathematicians in history. Two of these sections highlight the fact that … Black mathematicians exist, writing on the works of Elbert Frank Cox and Dorothy Johnson Vaughan.
  • If you squint hard enough you could see a semblance of something vaguely political in a few of the high school math texts, but only because a few of the word problems in one of the texts mention words like “prejudice” or “stereotyping.” For example, one word problem mentions the word “prejudice,” but “only as an example to illustrate that correlation does not equal causation,” in Popular Information’s words.

Read the full analysis here.

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