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Florida rejects some social studies textbooks and pushes publishers to change others

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference to sign several bills related to public education and teacher pay, in Miami, on May 9.
Rebecca Blackwell
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference to sign several bills related to public education and teacher pay, in Miami, on May 9.

Florida education officials have rejected dozens of social studies textbooks amid an ongoing effort by the administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to influence what's taught in the state's public schools.

The Florida Department of Education announced Tuesday that it had approved 66 of 101 submissions for new social studies textbooks — some of which only got through after publishers made revisions requested by the state.

At first, only 19 books were approved "due to inaccurate material, errors and other information that was not aligned with Florida Law," the department said.

Several of those changes, which were disclosed on the department's website, had to do with political and social justice issues.

In one case, references to the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement were removed. In another, a question mentioning "social justice issues" in the Hebrew Bible was changed to refer to "key principles" in the religious text. Descriptions of socialism and communism were also changed.

The list of rejected materials included books on U.S. history, the Holocaust, psychology and more. Officials said the books did not meet state standards, but it's unclear specifically why they were not approved.

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat, criticized the announcement. "DeSantis and extreme MAGA Republicans are bent on dumbing down America's education system and silencing Black voices," she said in a tweet.

This is not the first time the administration of DeSantis, who in the past slammed what he calls "woke indoctrination" in schools, has intervened on matters of curriculum in K-12 education.

Last year state education officials rejected 54 mathematics textbooks, saying some of them included topics such as critical race theory or otherwise didn't meet state standards.

Earlier this year, DeSantis rejected a new Advanced Placement African American Studies course, with a spokesperson saying the class had a "political agenda." The final curriculum of the course was changed from a previous version, but the College Board said that was not because of Florida's objections. The College Board said in April that it will make further changes to the course in coming months after listening to the "diversity of voices within the field."

In a statement Tuesday, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. thanked DeSantis for his focus on education.

"To uphold our exceptional standards, we must ensure our students and teachers have the highest quality materials available – materials that focus on historical facts and are free from inaccuracies or ideological rhetoric," Diaz said.

The department said publishers could appeal any rejections and that the approved textbooks can now be purchased by public school districts across the state.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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