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Florida math textbook reviewers made comments on race, climate change, records show

The records don’t provide visuals of the objectionable content, but they detail what reviewers were offended by and why and, in some cases, underscored the political nature of the objections.
Math books that have been flagged by the state of Florida for inappropriate content pictured in the Tampa Bay Times studio on Thursday, April 28, 2022, in St. Petersburg.
Math books that have been flagged by the state of Florida for inappropriate content pictured in the Tampa Bay Times studio on Thursday, April 28, 2022, in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 6|Updated May 6

TALLAHASSEE — One math textbook was approved by the state after a review process showed pictures that portrayed Black people primarily as athletes.

Another, under the same vetting process, was flagged because it put an emphasis on racism being “embedded in American society.”

Those are some of the examples included in nearly 6,000 pages of records released by the Florida Department of Education that show how state reviewers determined whether 132 math textbooks were fit for Florida classrooms.

Related: A closer look at Florida’s rejected math textbooks

Florida rejected 54 of those books because state officials said they contained “prohibited topics” from critical race theory to social-emotional learning. The Department of Education made the announcement in a news release that claimed publishers were attempting to “indoctrinate students” — and has only provided four textbook pages that show the content to which it objected.

The records released Thursday do not provide visuals of the objectionable content, but they offer detail on the state’s review process, what reviewers were offended by and why and, in some cases, underscored the political nature of the objections.

Most of the reviewers found no evidence of prohibited topics like critical race theory, an academic concept that argues racism is systemic. The concept was banned in Florida last year, although it is generally not taught in K-12 schools.

Although the records show names of reviewers, the Times/Herald is not publishing those names because they could not immediately be verified or reached to answer questions about their reviews or the process.

One reviewer vetting a middle school math textbook said that the book met all of the state’s standards on critical race theory and justified it this way: “First example with a Black student pic is basketball. Most pictures are of white people, unless sports-related.” The book was approved by the state.

Another reviewer, though, found “critical race theory elements” in the pages of a high school book and told the state it should be rejected solely on that basis.

The same reviewer said a high school math book — which the state rejected — contained CRT because it put an “emphasis that racism is embedded in American society,” pointing to a lesson plan’s answer that said, “The United States has eradicated neither poverty nor racism.”

The same reviewer said there was evidence of CRT in the math book because there was “no mention of the Federalist Papers to understand why the Electoral College was established.” This reviewer also said the book was “agenda driven and biased” because the author “talks about a climate crisis as if it’s a proven fact.”

“The American history of context is presented as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence,” the reviewer wrote.

Then the reviewer added this: “Example: Page 198 — Has multiple exercises regarding an argument between Al Gore and Rush Limbaugh. Within the text and questions, you can tell the author favors Al Gore and dislikes Rush Limbaugh based on questions.”

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In a statement, the Department of Education said reviewers selected by the state “must meet minimum professional qualification, and they must evaluate materials based on alignment with the state’s standards, as adopted in law and State Board of Education rule, additional state law pertaining to required instruction, and any additional bid specifications.”

The Times/Herald is continuing to review the records provided by the Department of Education. The Department recently approved 19 books that had been initially rejected, claiming that publishers had made changes and removed “woke content” from their books.

The department has not provided a definition for what it considers to be “woke content” and it did not provide the reviews that show exactly what changed in the book to align their content with the state’s standards.

This story will be updated.

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