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The Florida department of Education recently claimed to have rejected a number of mathematics textbooks because, the department claimed, they contained elements of Common Core, critical race theory, and social-emotional learning:

The approved list followed a thorough review of submissions at the Department, which found 41 percent of the submitted textbooks were impermissible with either Florida’s new standards or contained prohibited topics – the most in Florida’s history. 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 assertion that many of the textbooks included Common Core does not seem implausible, since it is a national education standard that has been around for more than a decade. However, social-emotional learning and critical race theory are less common frameworks in mathematics teaching, and Republican politicians have a recent history of using "critical race theory" to refer to discussions of race or racism in general, so there is reason to be skeptical of their claims about the content of textbooks.

Did any of the textbooks rejected contain elements of critical race theory or social-emotional learning?

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    Real "Critical Race Theory" is a graduate-level philosophy of race relations. Unfortunately the term "Critical Race Theory" is now used to mean "anything about race that I don't like", and so it's impossible to say. Unless you mean real "Critical Race Theory" in which case the answer is almost certainly no. Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 21:16
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    Also since the FDE does not name the rejected books it's impossible to say what they contained. Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 21:16
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    Also (and I can't believe I'm still writing about this) it says "textbooks were rejected for having Common Core". Common Core is an agreed curriculum that says (for example) "students should be taught geometry". Does this mean if a mathematics textbook has geometry as a subject it means the textbook can be rejected for having "common Core" content? Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 21:25
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    As a professional academic mathematician also interested in mathematics curricula and education: it would be completely amazing to me if there were, in any genuine sense, any "critical race theory" (or quantum field theory) in basic math textbooks. On the other hand, I'm also unable to imagine what might have "set off" the people to object. Maybe it doesn't need anything. But... "math textbooks"? Objecting that they're too boring is one thing... :) I guess then any book can be objected-to on fantasy grounds... Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 22:37
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    @paulgarrett My guess would be it's something as simple as an illustration alongside a problem that shows a multi-racial couple, or a problem that includes two male names in a circumstance where you might assume they're a couple. It could even be the use of 'they' to refer to a person instead of 'he' or 'she' - these groups will jump on anything to try and manufacture more outrage.
    – Kayndarr
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 1:00

2 Answers 2

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Yes, at least some of the textbooks contain social-emotional learning content.

The best answer to this question is probably this story in the New York Times: A Look Inside the Textbooks That Florida Rejected.

In most of the books, there was little that touched on race, never mind an academic framework like critical race theory.

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.

As an example of this SEL content, the NYT article provides an image of a fifth-grade (age 10-11) math textbook exercise that asks students to write a "math biography." In the math biography, students "[reflect] on their feelings about the subject and how they expect math skills could help them enjoy hobbies or achieve goals."


It was news to me that social-emotional learning was an even slightly contentious issue. For those curious about this, I've included some context provided by the same NYT article.

Timothy Dohrer, director of teacher leadership at Northwestern University, claims that,

“SEL has no connection to critical race theory...and yet it is being connected at local school board levels and local communities as well as in the national dialogue.”

Right-wing activists like Chris Rufo argue that such content is meant to

"soften children at an emotional level, reinterpret their normative behavior as an expression of ‘repression,’ ‘whiteness,’ or ‘internalized racism,’ and then rewire their behavior according to the dictates of left-wing ideology.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis believes that “Math is about getting the right answer...It’s not about how you feel about the problem.”

Experts in education and early childhood development disagree. Harvard Graduate School of Education developmental psychologist Stephanie M. Jones explained that,

“Feelings arise all the time — they arise when we’re doing work at our offices, and when kids are learning things...It makes sense to try and engage those feelings or grapple with them in order to be more effective at the thing we’re doing.”

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  • Also, how relevant to the question are the opinions of researchers about the merits of social-emotional learning (to say nothing of those of right-wing activists)? The question is just about whether these two topics are actually in the books, not whether they are good or bad.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 16:47
  • Thanks for the edit. I've added a note about the inclusion of the contextual information about the SEL debate.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 16:53
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    As far as I can tell, the main reason that social-emotional learning is getting drawn in is that there is a distinct lack of textbooks that contain any reference to or elements of critical race theory outside of say, history or ethnic studies classes. That would not do for stoking outrage, so there needs to be a proxy, like Common Core or SEL.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 16:57
  • Some of the examples I have seen Florida using are altered and come from other states such as Missouri which makes me question the accuracy of what they are saying
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 17:55
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    @JoeW - Unlike my answer, this one cites the New York Times, which was able to review 21 of the books that Florida mentored in the release. All the statements in the main body are based on that review, not on the samples released by the Florida DoE.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 18:05
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Yes in the case of social-emotional learning; probably not in the case of critical race theory

The Florida Department of Education recently released four examples of content from the textbooks that it claimed to fit in the categories described in the question.

As can be seen in the article, two textbooks mention social-emotional learning explicitly. However, the other two examples show the use of statistical analysis on implicit racial bias scores. Implicit bias inventories have no relation to critical race theory.

Of course, this does not definitively establish that there is not critical race theory somewhere in the listed textbooks. However, given the expressed political beliefs of the Florida governor and the Florida Republican Party in general, presumably they would have included such examples if they existed. As such, it seems improbable that the listed textbooks do contain any elements of critical race theory.

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  • Some of the examples I have seen Florida using are altered and come from other states such as Missouri which makes me question the accuracy of what they are saying.
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 17:53
  • @JoeW - Are any of the four examples in that article from the Washington Post not from the books mentioned in the release? If you don't have evidence of that, I do not really see the reason for your downvoting. If you do, I will of course reconsider my answer.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 18:01
  • The only evidence I see is what Florida has released and I have seen evidence that suggests they are not trustworthy on this topic.
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 19:06
  • @JoeW - Can you share the evidence that these texts are from states such as Missouri, then?
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 19:08
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    @JoeW Absolutely no claim that DeSantis and cronies make on any education-related issue is even remotely trustworthy.
    – barbecue
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 16:43

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