By Jay Croft and Steve Contorno, CNN
Florida education officials have released four images from some of the math textbooks the state rejected this month, citing what they said were references to critical race theory or other “prohibited” topics.
The state Department of Education last week rejected 54 of 132 math textbooks publishers had submitted. The books did not comply with its Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking Standards or were rejected for including critical race theory (CRT), social emotional learning (SEL) and more, it said.
Some conservative groups claim critical race theory and social emotional learning are used to indoctrinate students.
Among the images released this week from books the state said were not adopted are references to “racial prejudice” and SEL. Which books they’re from and their full context isn’t clear.
Department spokesperson Cassie Palelis did not identify the books and referred CNN to the agency website showing “a few examples” that were “received from the public.” It’s unclear exactly what the specific concerns were with the four examples.
“At this time, those who have submitted textbooks for consideration still own the material (i.e. their content is copyrighted and we are unable to release it to the public at this time, pending review),” she wrote.
The examples mention “measuring racial prejudice” and the “Implicit Association Test.”
Another says the “SEL Objective” is to help students “build proficiency with social awareness as they practice with empathizing with classmates.”
The fourth includes a word or phrase that has been redacted. It also says, “This feature is designed to build student agency by focusing on students’ social and emotional learning.”
The images were posted with a disclaimer which read, in part: “These examples do not represent an exhaustive list of input received by the Department. The Department is continuing to give publishers the opportunity to remediate all deficiencies identified during the review to ensure the broadest selection of high quality instructional materials are available to the school districts and Florida’s students.”
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SEL helps students “develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions,” the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning says.
Timothy Shriver, chair of the organization, told CNN’s Jake Tapper, he believes people get scared when they don’t understand things, adding, “I think some of this is a fight about honestly next to nothing. A lot of this is inspired by political disputes and by political advantage. There is a vast industry in this country that uses contempt and hatred to divide us politically, and I think sometimes that industry of division and contempt uses schools to advance its own aims.”
More than a dozen states have set standards for teaching SEL in grade schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But as more states consider SEL strategies, conservative groups have claimed critical race theory is embedded in it.
Sumi Cho, director of strategic initiatives for the African American Policy Forum and head of its #TruthBeTold campaign, told Tapper politicians are leveraging the heightened debate to justify bans on school curricula.
“It’s kind of interesting to see this ever-expanding umbrella, under this fearmongering campaign, that’s using critical race theory as the sort of Trojan horse in education.”
Opponents argue CRT is based on Marxism and is a threat to the American way of life. But scholars who study it say it explores how a history of inequality and racism impact American society today.
“We don’t want things like math to have, you know, some of these other concepts introduced. It’s not been proven to be effective, and quite frankly, it takes our eye off the ball,” Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters at a news conference.
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, called for transparency on how the state’s department of education made the decision, including examples of “objectionable” content and details about those who reviewed the textbooks and their qualifications.
DeSantis signed a bill Friday putting new restrictions on how schools and businesses can talk about race and gender.
“We’re not going to allow and teach that a person simply by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin or sex is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive. That’s wrong,” said the governor who shared the stage with a group of adults and school aged children — many holding “Stop Woke” and anti-CRT signs — as he spoke at the Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens.
The bill says a student and employee cannot be told they “must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the individual played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.”
It also prohibits instruction or training that says certain races or sexes are inherently privileged or oppressed.
The bill says schools can teach about slavery and the history of racial segregation and discrimination in an “age-appropriate manner,” but the instruction cannot “indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.”
“It’s an overall worldview that many people are trying to inject into our kids’ education, and that is not a true education, that is indoctrination,” DeSantis said.
The bill goes into effect July 1.
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CNN’s Tina Burnside and Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.