Thanks to actual journalist Judd Legum and crew, we’re finally able to look inside some of those math textbooks Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Republican gubbermint found to contain “indoctrination.” Legum’s Popular Information was able to find copies of 8 of the rejected textbooks.
A clue that even Ron DeSantis knows that his Department of Education is reeeeealy stretching in their claims of “indoctrination” might be his emphasis on “social-emotional learning” as new boogieman. Even with fascist Republicanism’s new, expansive definitions of “critical race theory” you can’t squeeze out much panic from a math textbook, but if you expand your complaints to complaints about children being indoctrinated into giving a flying shit about anyone around them, sure, you can probably find quite a bit more to object to.
So that’s what team book-banning appears to be leaning on most heavily, in order to winnow down what math textbooks can be shown to Florida’s impressionable preteens. Barney the Dinosaur and his sharing is caring crap is right out. Barney was a damn communist, and Florida Republicans are going to make sure young children aren’t exposed to something called (checks notes) “critical thinking” or “learning to work together.” That child over there is learning to “value the ideas of others!” Witchcraft!
Legum has some nice pictures of what appears to be the most objectionable content. In one 1st grade math textbook, children are told that when we “work together” on solving problems, we “listen to our friends and teachers.” In another textbook, 1st graders are encouraged to “share your ideas,” “ask helpful questions,” and “disagree respectfully.”
Communism! It’s all communism! The Republican Party has been completely retooled around the idea that nobody should ever “disagree respectfully,” if you disagree with someone you should tell them to take off their mask, you should cough in their face, you should make big ol’ banners that insinuate swear words to bash the president you disagree with, you should get them fired, you should ban the books they write, and you should declare that everyone except for you is a pedophile!
Do you think even for a moment Florida Republicans are going to let a first grade math textbook through that encourages kids to “disagree respectfully” or “value ideas from others” when learning how to work in groups? Truly, communism is afoot in our public schools. This is yet another reason, Republicans will insist, why parents need to be given vouchers so that they can go to private Republican schools where they can learn how to not value ideas from others and not disagree respectfully.
Oh, and also curiously enough both of those examples are illustrated with drawings that feature A Black Person. Coincidence? Hard to say, but it became a theme in Popular Information’s examples of theoretically-objectionable content. Short profiles of non-white mathematicians, a genetics-themed math problem that notes Black Americans are far more at risk of sickle cell anemia than white Americans, another brief example from a high school textbook noting that “stereotyping” can lead to faulty “inductive reasoning,” versus “deductive reasoning,” which may have been objected to either because it uses the word “prejudice” or may have been nixed because of Republican opposition to teaching basic critical thinking skills. Hard to say.
There is, however, also evidence that this whole thing might in fact just be another cheap Republican grift of the sort that the DeSantis hivemind keeps managing to “accidentally” create. The Tallahassee Democrat reports that the curious outcome of the DeSantis administration rejecting the long list of textbooks it rejected is that there is only one remaining publisher whose books are approved for Florida’s regular K-5 math programs. Just one!
That publisher? Accelerate Learning, based in Houston, Texas, a company that was acquired by Carlyle Group CEO Glenn Youngkin—who resigned a few years later to run for the Virginia governorship; once ensconced there, one of his very first moves was to, yup, ban objectionable textbooks from Virginia classrooms.
That’s a pretty odd coincidence in quite the string of weird Republican coincidences, especially considering that Accelerate Learning does not, the Democrat reports, appear to shy away from the sort of terribly divisive “diversity” language that has Florida Republicans going absolutely batshit in every other venue. But maybe limiting textbook choices for K-5 students to just one well-connected company is just an accident, in the same way that it’s an accident that language about “learning to work together” is now railed against as “social-emotional learning” and triggers all the Florida fascist buttons. There are so many scandals blending together in so many ways that, as we’ve seen, not even the people in the middle of them appear to know what the hell they’re doing or why.