Last week, the big, crazy news out of big, crazy America was the Florida Department of Education’s decision to reject 54 school mathematics texts. The reasons? Well, supposedly the rejected texts
included references to Critical Race Theory (CRT), inclusions of Common Core, and the unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in mathematics.
The claim was immediately undermined, however, by the FDOE’s declining to provide any such references, or to even identify the rejected texts. FDOE’s excuse, that the textbooks “contain confidential and proprietary content” and that the publishers could still “appeal any non-adoption decision and substitute or revise their submitted bids”, was widely recognised to be utter nonsense. So, a few days after FDOE’s nonsense didn’t fly, FDOE released the list of rejected textbooks, but still without any references to supposedly egregious content. Of course this was still nonsense and it still didn’t fly.
Finally, yesterday, FDOE published four images from the rejected textbooks. Four images with no provided context, out of 54 rejected texts. This is, of course, still utter nonsense. But, at least we can now pretend to discuss this. One of the released images is above, and the other three are below. The reader is invited to meaninglessly judge for themselves.
So, what is this kerfuffle about? Should the texts have been rejected? Who are the Good Guys for whom we should be cheering? Here are our brief thoughts:
*) This is indeed about Critical Race Theory. The Critical Race in question is the race for the 2024 Republican Presidential Nomination. And, Florida Governor DeSantis’s Theory about this Critical Race is that if he wages enough ludicrous Trumpian culture wars then he’ll get the nomination.
*) It is almost certain that the texts should have been rejected. It is quite probable that they should have been rejected because they contain manipulative, social engineering twaddle of the type of which has been claimed. But, more probably, the texts should have been rejected because, like almost all modern school maths texts, they are mathematical garbage.
*) There are no Good Guys here. DeSantis, as is his Education Minister henchman, Richard Corcoran, is an utter slimeball. But the textbook companies are undoubtedly swill merchants, without an ounce of genuine concern for the quality or integrity of their publications.
What a country.
The New York Times has a (semi-paywalled) article on Florida’s textbook rejection. The article is telling, and hilarious.
Education reporter Dana Goldstein and politics reporter Stephanie Saul looked at the online resources/versions of twenty-one of the rejected textbooks and fished around for what might have pissed off the Florida thugs. Obviously one cannot do justice to twenty-one out of fifty-four texts in one article, but it’s something. So what did they find?
The reporters claim that they found “little that touched on race, never mind an academic framework like critical race theory” (while making no comment on the crazy bar graph image that FDOE released). They did apparently find, however, a lot of other stuff:
But many of the textbooks included social-emotional learning content, a practice with roots in psychological research that tries to help students develop mind-sets that can support academic success.
OK, so lots of touchy-feely SEL crap. And how do the reporters report on this touchy-feely SEL crap? Well, they quote a Harvard education professor, “a developmental psychologist and expert on social-emotional learning”, to the effect that the touchy-feely SEL crap is not crap. And, they quote a Northwestern education professor, “a director of teacher leadership”, to the effect that the touchy-feely SEL crap is not crap.
Is that it? Of course not. This is the New York Times, so of course they will balance the “touchy-feely SEL crap is not crap” opinions from the declared experts with an at least one opposing view. To this end, they quote “a right-wing activist”, some culture warrior fruitcake from a libertarian nutjob institute, to the effect that the touchy-feely SEL crap is, indeed, crap. Way to do the balance, guys.
It’s not so much the reporters putting their fingers on the scales as their entire idiot asses. It is exactly the kind of manipulative and tone-deaf crusading that convinces people, wrongly, that the Florida thugs are The Good Guys. Of course the true hilarity is that the reporters’ crusading is immediately defeated by the very evidence that they provide: