Florida Rejects Dozens of Social Science Textbooks, and Forces Change on Others

Florida has rejected dozens of social science textbooks and is working with publishers to edit dozens more, the state department of education announced Tuesday, in the latest effort under Governor Ron DeSantis to remove textbooks from contentious topics, especially around contemporary issues of race and social sciences. social justice. .

State officials initially rejected 82 of the 101 textbooks submitted because of what they considered “inaccurate material, errors, and other information inconsistent with Florida laws,” the Department of Education said in a statement. news release.

But as part of an extensive effort to revise material, Florida worked closely with publishers to make changes, ultimately approving 66 of 101 textbooks. However, 35 were rejected even after that process.

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, has campaigned against what he describes as “awake indoctrination” and leftist agendas in the classroom. Last year, the state rejected dozens of math textbooks, saying they touched on forbidden topics, including critical race theory and emotional social learning, which have been targeted by the right.

State reviews of social studies textbooks, conducted every few years, are widely expected to raise similar objections.

The state department of education issued a document outlining some of the revisions it said the publisher had made at its request. But the document does not list the titles or publishers of the revised books, making the claims difficult to verify independently.

That revision outlined by country include:

  • Elementary school textbooks no longer include “home support” guides on how to talk about the national anthem, which included a suggestion that parents could “use this as an opportunity to talk about why some citizens choose to” kneel “to protest police brutality and racism.” ” Florida officials said the content was not age appropriate.

  • A text on different types of economics has been edited to omit any description of socialism as keeping things “good and even” and potentially promoting greater equality. The description was flagged as inaccurate, and any mention of the term “socialism” was removed entirely.

  • Middle school textbooks no longer contain sections on the Black Lives Matter movement, the killing of George Floyd, and their impact on society. The deleted section described the protests, noting that “many Americans sympathize with the Black Lives Matter movement,” while others criticized the looting and violence and viewed the movement as anti-police. The state said the section contained “unsolicited topics.”

Manny Diaz, Jr., Florida commissioner of education, said in a statement that textbooks should “focus on historical facts” and be “free of ideological inaccuracies or rhetoric.”

The teaching of race has become a lightning rod nationwide, but especially in Florida, where Mr. DeSantis, who is expected to announce a 2024 presidential bid, has made it a signature political issue.

But the tone of this year's announcement by the state was softer than last year.

When the state rejected math textbooks in 2022, the announcement was made in a breaking news release emphasized the disclaimer: “Florida Rejects Publisher's Attempts to Indoctrinate Students.”

This year, in contrast, state officials emphasized the percentage of textbooks approved, and how the state has worked with publishers to increase the number of approvals.

At a press conference at the classical charter school on Tuesday morning, Mr. DeSantis signed a package of education laws and emphasized other topics, including a $1 billion fund to increase teacher salaries.

The governor put little focus on social studies textbooks, though at one point he appeared to allude to reporting by The New York Times, which found that the publisher, Studies Weekly, had dropped discussion of race in its Florida filings, including Florida. the story of Rosa Parks.

“If you're trying to create a narrative that something like a Rosa Parks book isn't allowed, that's a lie,” Mr. DeSantis on Tuesday.

Weekly Study have said that he had been trying to “decipher” how to comply with Florida's new law, known as the Stop WOKE Act. Signed by Mr DeSantis last year, the law prohibits instruction that would force students to feel responsible, guilty, or sad for what a member of their race did in the past. The law has sometimes caused confusion, and Studies Weekly later apologized for what it described as an overreaction by its curriculum team.

(Weekly Study social study submissions are not approved for use in Florida.)

The state's list of approved social studies textbooks will have a significant impact on how history is taught to nearly three million Florida public school students, with topics ranging from slavery and Jim Crow to the Holocaust.

Florida textbook approvals can also influence what students study in other states. Less than half of the state approves textbooks at the state level, but that includes Florida, Texas, and California, the three biggest markets. Publishers often cater to these states, using them as templates for the material they offer in smaller markets.

Florida rejected several textbooks from major national publishers, such as McGraw Hill and Savvas Learning.

“We are currently reviewing the situation,” McGraw Hill said in a statement. “At this time, we don't know why these titles weren't recommended.” Savvas don't responded to a request for an interview on Tuesday.

Another major publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, isn't even bidding on the Florida social studies market this year.

Adam Laats, an education historian at Binghamton University, says that for more than a century, American publishers have revised textbooks to allay political concerns, sometimes using razor blades to remove material on topics such as evolution or Reconstruction.

The push to censor school material often comes from conservatives, says Professor Laats—and in the Florida announcement, he hears echoes of an old battle. He noted that state policymakers cited “age appropriateness” in asking one of the publishers to remove discussion of athletes kneeling during the national anthem.

While the subject of police violence may indeed bother children, says Professor Laats, the state does not mind another reference to violence and death on the same page: “Talk to your child about our military and how they sacrifice. their lives for us, ”the text says.

“Using age appropriateness is a strategic or tactical move,” he said, adding, “Parents and other stakeholders tend to resent the idea that textbooks have important information withheld. But parents are kind to the idea of ​​age-appropriateness.”