'As transparent as a Russian press release': Florida newspaper shreds shadowy math textbook ban

'As transparent as a Russian press release': Florida newspaper shreds shadowy math textbook ban
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R).

Last Friday, the Florida Department of Education banned dozens of math textbooks because it claimed that they "incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including [critical race theory]" and Common Core, which has also faced the chopping block in the Sunshine State.

"Reasons for rejecting textbooks included references to Critical Race Theory (CRT), inclusions of Common Core, and the unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in mathematics. The highest number of books rejected were for grade levels K-5, where an alarming 71 percent were not appropriately aligned with Florida standards or included prohibited topics and unsolicited strategies. Despite rejecting 41 percent of materials submitted, every core mathematics course and grade is covered with at least one textbook," the Florida DoE said in a statement.

“It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students,” Republican Governor Ron DeSantis added. “I’m grateful that Commissioner [of Education Richard] Corcoran and his team at the Department have conducted such a thorough vetting of these textbooks to ensure they comply with the law.”

Unfortunately, however, the state's censors have refused to enlighten the public about what was so offensive in those books. They expect Floridians to simply accept that certain books are forbidden because they say so.

On Monday, the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board blasted the new restrictions on learning materials, arguing that the DeSantis-led Republican coalition is behaving like a certain authoritarian international head of state.

"The announcement — as transparent as a Russian press release — made it seem like state education officials were hiding something. Could that be? If the books were so offensive, if they were so chock-full of 'prohibited topics,' plucking out a few examples of offending passages for us all to see would hardly have taken much effort," the editors wrote. "Instead we are left to imagine the possibilities."

Indeed, given that the modern-day GOP operates itself on a credo of ''do as I say not as I do" while buddying up to bullies like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The paper's chiefs came up with two clever hypotheticals to provide some context:

Offending question: A woman who committed a felony has served her time and wants to vote again, but first she wants to pay all her fines and fees, as the Legislature requires. How much does she owe? (Answer: Good question. Often, no one can say for sure).
Offending question: At the end of March, the state had 5,145,983 registered Republicans and 5,034,448 registered Democrats. There are 28 congressional districts. How many seats should Republicans be favored to win? (Answer: 14. Wrong! You mistook this for a math question. It’s all about politics. Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ personal congressional maps, Republicans would likely win 20 seats and Democrats 8).

The opacity of what went on behind the scenes disturbed the editors greatly, and they were only able to draw one conclusion. They asked their readers to ponder the following:

Could it be that their case was as flimsy as a damp paper towel? Could it be that they wanted to score political points without having to play any defense? Maybe they have their own definition of transparency?

What is crystal clear, though, is the foundation of White resentment underlying the Republican Party's crusades against academic subjects.

Last year, DeSantis forbade schools from teaching critical race theory (which is typically only taught in law schools) because he said that it maintains that "racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white person."

Ironically, that is objectively and historically true, but right-wingers like DeSantis interpret it as personal allegations of being a racist. Sadly, this translates into Republicans tirelessly avoiding tackling real problems by waging divisive culture wars. And their unnecessary projection prevents students from learning about the sins of the past so that they can be a part of a better future.

With that in mind, theTimes' editors offered some advice to those who work to shield kids from reality.

”'Show your work!' is the mantra of many math teachers. They don’t accept an answer without students showing how they arrived at their conclusions," the Board concluded. "When it comes to rejecting math books, state education officials wanted you to skip that step. Instead, we should all insist that they always show their work."

Read the full editorial here.

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