Ethics Verdict: Non-Math Propaganda Does Not Belong In Math Textbooks

The New York Times reports that Florida has rejected 42 of 132 math textbooks proposed for use in public school classrooms because they “incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies” including social-emotional learning and critical race theory, according to the state’s Department of Education.

Good.

The tone of the Times article is framed to advance the “Wow, look at what radical conservative hate-mongering Neanderthals they have running the asylum in Florida, with that racist, transphobic Ron DeSantis as governor!” narrative. But this is only a partisan issue because one party’s core ideology, the Democratic Party, has, in “Happy Days” parlance, “jumped the shark,” or in my parlance, is in the process of sliding toward totalitarianism.

Here’s reporter Dana Goldstein’s second paragraph:

But Florida has a new law, which goes into effect in July, limiting the way that sexual orientation, gender identity and social-emotional skills are taught. Gov. Ron DeSantis is also expected to sign legislation, known as the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” prohibiting instruction that could prompt students to feel discomfort about a historical event because of their race, sex or national origin.

What does that have to do with a Department of Education deciding that mathematics textbooks should be entirely–not substantially, not mostly, but entirely, about mathematics? It doesn’t matter, or shouldn’t, what distractions, pet agendas, tangential advocacy or ideological indoctrination is in a math textbook. It doesn’t belong there. Standing for that rather simple and, I would think, obvious principle is not a partisan position, unless one party is interested, indeed invested, indeed determined to advance in something other than education. That something is indoctrination, and indoctrination of the young is essential for totalitarianism to grab a nation, culture, society and people by the throat.Students are coming out of America’s education system increasingly ignorant, incompetent, and unprepared for the challenges of life. One cause of this deterioration is that schools require teachers to devote increasing amounts of class time to matters that squeeze out the essentials, and I presume we can all agree that mathematics is an essential subject of study that can, unless your father is Euclid, best be taught in school.

The glorification of trangenderism is not such a topic. Critical Race Theory and its various pals and alter-egos is not such a topic. The glories of Marxism isn’t, the plight of illegal immigrants isn’t, and the evils of guns isn’t. As wonderful as these positions seem to some in our society, a mathematics book is not a proper place for them. This shouldn’t be a matter of controversy, and I suspect that even the wokest of the woke know this, but the committed ideologue and revolutionary also knows that every opportunity to program the young must be exploited.

The more progressive cant that is planted in children’s minds like that hideous eel larva Khan puts in Chekhov’s ear to control him, the better for the Left’s aspiring totalitarians. The more non-math content in the public schools, the less proficient at math and logic graduates will be, and that suits the totalitarians as well: a stupid and ignorant public is a fearful and easily manipulated public.

Book publishers provide these tools of conquest not because they are necessarily ideologues themselves, but because they care primarily about profits. They are “reading the room,” as stand-up comics say. Progressives have all but taken over public education, and the publishers assume, correctly, that math textbooks with woke propaganda will sell. They are unethical, untrustworthy scum, willing to sacrifice the minds of children, democracy and the well-being of their country for cash.

Meanwhile, they and the totalitarians in this instance are being bolstered by the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics.  The organization, which trains math teachers across the U.S. and Canada and has a mission to “improve the world” through better teaching of mathematics, recently issued a proclamation calling on public schools and math teachers to advance “social justice” by embedding it in their curricula and math lesson plans.

“…A social justice stance interrogates and challenges the roles power, privilege, and oppression play in the current unjust system of mathematics education—and in society as a whole,” reads the NCSM statement in part. It calls for teachers to acknowledge that the current mathematics curriculum is “unjust” because it is “grounded in a legacy of institutional discrimination based on race, ethnicity, class, and gender.” School boards, the statement says, need to conduct annual audits on whether they have satisfactorily implemented the social justice action items recommended by the NCSM.

“We must hold the profession and our organizations accountable to making a just and equitable mathematics education a sustainable reality,” the NCSM insists.

Hey, they even worked the progressive buzzword “sustainable” in there! Cool!

This embarrassing display should be recognized for what it is, a sad chapter in The Great Stupid, which is still being written, tragically. These are people whose narrow area of expertise and life’s work does not logically or properly make them allies in social movements, but they long to belong, to embrace a fad, and to be perceived by their progressive colleagues and peers as virtuous. Engaging in political activism as individuals, which is the ethical course, won’t get them the attention they crave, so they unprofessionally and irresponsibly abuse their perceived authority and influence to engage in “virtuous” politics.

Why not? They see scientists, doctors, psychiatrists, judges, lawyers, professors, school presidents, law school deans, corporations, ad agencies, art organizations, museums, orchestras, media organization and others doing it, so they want to be seen as “good” too. It’s insidious and destructive, but these are little people without the character or integrity to resist, desperately seeking to belong to something bigger than themselves, while lacking the skills to examine just what that “bigger” thing is.

Big Brother depended on this instinct. It works.

I’ll close with this important clarification. No propaganda, no indoctrination material, no non-mathematics lessons belong in math textbooks regardless of what ideology they support. Would DeSantis’s government agency be just as quick to reject a math textbook that extolled free enterprise, freedom of speech and America’s value to the world? One can hope, but I’m dubious. I would not be surprised if some those 90 remaining math textbooks have non-math content aimed at the book purchasing decision-makers of a conservative bent. If so, that represents a double standard, and double standards are unethical.

 

31 thoughts on “Ethics Verdict: Non-Math Propaganda Does Not Belong In Math Textbooks

  1. You know the Nazis used to incorporate ideology into math courses. The late Holocaust survivor Eva Kor told of how math classes suddenly began using story problems that asked students to calculate how many Jews one would have left if one shot a certain number of them.

  2. Many of these curricula bill themselves as using “social justice” themes as a “hook” to better teach mathematics. But I’ve reviewed several of them, and what they do is the opposite – using the guise of math instruction as the “hook” to teach social justice themes. For instance, a 9th-grade geometry lesson might introduce the concept of gerrymandering, and examine measures of compactness like the Polsby-Popper and Reock scores. But these are college-level political-science concepts, not 9th-grade geometry concepts. And the actual exercises provided for calculating those scores involve nothing more than calculating the area and perimeter of circles and rectangles, which are concepts years behind the 9th-grade level.

    One of the math books recently rejected by Florida included an exercise that involved reading a paragraph on Maya Angelou, then answering multiple-choice questions where facts on Maya Angelou were independently paired with the answers to math problems. To answer the questions, students could choose, for instance, either two solve a system of two equations, OR look up where Maya Angelou was born, allowing them to bypass the math portion entirely.

    Unfortunately, this seems to be typical. Anybody who reads these materials honestly must see how they’re designed to cripple math instruction.

    • That Angelou section was something wild.

      “y = x + 2, 3x + 6y = 12

      Angelou was sexually abused by her mother’s ___________ at age 8, which shaped her career choices and motivation for writing

      a) (0,2) Boyfriend
      b) (4,6) Brother
      c) (-3, -1) Father”

      “x = y – 1, y = -4x + 21″

      Trying to support her son as a single mother, she worked as a pimp, prostitute and ______.

      a) (-3, -2) Bookie
      b) (9, 10) Drug Dealer
      c) (4, 5) Night Club Dancer”

      If you can’t teach math without using the words “sexually”, “pimp” or “prostitute”, seek alternative employment.

      • “’…A social justice stance interrogates and challenges the roles power, privilege, and oppression play in the current unjust system of mathematics education—and in society as a whole,’ reads the NCSM statement in part. It calls for teachers to acknowledge that the current mathematics curriculum is “unjust” because it is ‘grounded in a legacy of institutional discrimination based on race, ethnicity, class, and gender.’ School boards, the statement says, need to conduct annual audits on whether they have satisfactorily implemented the social justice action items recommended by the NCSM.”
        NCSM = National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics

        Tucker Carlson is the perfect talking head to promulgate this information that undoubtably isn’t much known outside of academic circles. This should lead to some serious woke fascist Left shredding by mama and papa bear, figuratively speaking of course.
        Indoctrination manifests at the grassroots level and that is where the most conspicuous portion of the battle for the minds and hearts of our children must occur because it is the most accessible.
        De-woking the NCSM by replacing the dedicated SJW cult with pure unadulterated mathletes must ultimately occur as well.

      • I’m completely in agreement with the overall position of this post and the comments, but I can’t find out what exactly is in the prohibited books. Fortunately (?), this Maya Angelou business appears to be from a worksheet downloaded from a teacher resource-sharing website and not from a rejected textbook.
        I’ve looked at the list of books Florida rejected but there isn’t any indication of what was objectionable in them. I’d love to hear/see more information like the gerrymandering example DaveL described.

        • I mean… Full disclosure: It will almost certainly be an overcorrection. Some of those books will have word problems that just aren’t objectionable to people like you and me. And for every book chucked for a bad gerrymandering question, or module scrapped for mentioning hookers and blow, there’s going to be ones that aren’t as bad.

          We can discuss those marginal cases, heck, we probably should. But realistically, it doesn’t matter: States have the ability to set their curriculums, state governments are elected by the people, and these changes seem very popular among the electorate.

          And like I said before on this topic: The system was warned. Parents were seeing things that they found objectionable. We’d been seeing rumblings on this topic for years; Sex abuse scandals that school districts covered up, objectionable modules, faculty hosted extracurriculars that parents weren’t told about, pride clubs that acted as recruitment centers… Covid ripped the sheet off these and a slew of other issues, because parents got to see and record in real time what was going on.

          It doesn’t matter what you call it. It doesn’t matter if we call it CRT. It doesn’t matter if there are LGBT issues intertwined with it. Parents. Were. Concerned. I mean, for Christ’s sake, America had a legitimate conversation about whether to include creationism in science textbooks because enough voters got together to push for it! While it’s heartening that the sides that I think are correct (evolution and sanity) seem to be waxing, realistically: Stakeholder concerns are more important than even the truth. And instead of taking those concerns to heart and adjusting, educators and administrators doubled down. What the actual hell did they think was going to happen? Parents would just give up their kids to the system? Send them away to get inculcated with quackery? If you were asked by the people you are ultimately accountable to adjust, and you tell them to pound sand, they’re going to hold you accountable. And at that point, you don’t get to bitch about the way they do it. They don’t have a whole lot of incentive to be accommodating. They’re going to overcorrect. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

          Their kids are theirs, not the school’s, not the teacher’s, not mine, not yours. It’s always tragic when kids get caught up in adult issues, but I’m not going to roll over and pretend that the reaction to progressive stimulus is what caused this problem.

        • Textbook issue aside; the philosophy of the NCSM is extremely problematic. Who the F*ck do these people think they are and what the hell are they doing inserting themselves into social engineering young minds?

          Teachers can write their own quizzes/tests and do. If woke teachers understand their governing body has sanctioned wokism then their language, behavior, written material, and wall posters, will likely reflect woke ideology. It is super easy to teach wokism without using terms that typically raise red flags.

          For example: type the words *critical pedagogy* into your search box and spend an hour becoming familiar with the insidious indoctrination of our youth. Pointer~~~~> Blogger pANTIFArts.

          Critical Pedagogy
          “Critical pedagogy is a teaching approach which attempts to help students question and challenge domination, and the beliefs and practices that dominate. In other words, it is a theory and practice of helping students achieve critical consciousness. Critical pedagogic educator Ira Shor defines critical pedagogy as: Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional cliches, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse.

          In this tradition the teacher works to lead students to question ideologies and practices considered oppressive (including those at school) and encourage liberatory collective and individual responses to the actual conditions of their own lives.

          The student often begins as a member of the group or process (including religion, national identity, cultural norms, or expected roles) they are critically studying. After they reach the point of revelation where they begin to view their present society as deeply problematic, the next behavior encouraged is sharing this knowledge with the attempt to change the oppressive nature of the society.”

          https://www.k12academics.com/educational-philosophy/critical-pedagogy?msclkid=6d132a0ec19611ec876e73c3768ec26d

  3. As a grandparent helping to homeschool my grandsons, I can attest that it is getting harder to find a variety of curricula that do not (often subtly) incorporate woke dogma. Outside of the curricula available from faith-oriented (Christian) sources, the pickings are getting slim. I was recently surprised by an elementary social studies / history text which began its series on great Americans not with Washington, Jefferson, or even Lincoln, but Martin Luther King, Jr., which I found lacking in historical perspective. I skipped ahead to the Founding Fathers and will get to MLK in due time.
    I have a sister and a number of friends who teach at the elementary and secondary levels, and they all report that the sample textbooks they review contain increasingly progressive/leftist content.

  4. I am going to admit a bias here, as I homeschool. That being said, even when I was in college and never planning to have kids, certainly disdaining the idea of staying at home, and never even contemplating homeschooling, I foind myself disagreeing with the idea that math is best taught in schools. Nerds like me figured out math. Everybody else could barely balance a bloody checkbook. No wonder kids go to expensive colleges and have no idea how to get out of student debt.

    I tutored people in math throughout high school and college and have occasionally continued to this day. I don’t want public school teachers, woke or otherwise, getting near my kids math education. Hell, that’s reason number three for my homeschooling my kids. (Reasons number one and two involve inculcating appropriate values in my kids, called indoctrination by those who oppose me doing so.) Granted, between my husband and myself, we have four heavily math based degrees hanging on the wall, so we might be closer to the “Dad is Euclid”, but still, most math teachers are not inculcating a love of math into their students, and barely getting the basics in. I have often heard math teachers comment that my kids’ mathcurricula is too repetitive and boring, but my second grader can do more math than half the high schoolers I’ve worked with, and a decent portion of the college kids. And my second grader has not yet learned basic division, due to her age.

    The schools suck at teaching math that does not use a calculator. My daughter just took her first standardized test and written all over the instructions was that students were not allowed a calculator. How could that even be discussed for seven and eight year olds? No math before eighth grade is advanced enough to even consider a calculator! If the testing agency thinks it is a needed warning, (I’ve heard plenty of teachers and math teachers say that you just need a calculator and our schools handed them out to elementary school kids, so I guess the testing agency has a point), schools have no business teaching kids math. And if you can’t teach math, one of the quintessential three “R’s”, you need to be shut down!

    That being said, word problems pretty much always have some value placed on them. How much fencing do you need for a yard with these dimensions, when do you need to leave if it takes X time to travel from A-B, how many more hoops did Jordan shoot than James? All real-life examples, which are needed for a good mathematics education, will put a slight stress on something, whether it be at houses need fences, the necessity of timeliness, or that making bskets is a good thing. My text books often say things like Mass starts at 9 AM. If it takes 23 minutes to drive to Mass, 15 minutes to load the car, 30 minutes to eat breakfast, and an hour to get everyone dressed, when do you need to get up? I have an emphasis on Catholic Mass. This is unavoidable, though it can be subtle and not in your face.

    • Last night, Mrs. Gory was sitting down with Baby Jack because he was pestering her to do multiplication and division problems with her. He’s in first grade. Maybe we should focus on that with them at home more.

      And, maybe I should shake the dust off of my copy of Euclid.

      -Jut

  5. I did supplemental after-school homeschooling with my kids from preschool through middle school, including math. The math resources came from garage sales, teacher stores, Christian homeschool websites, and occasionally from mainstream bookstore chains (f.ex., Barnes & Noble). The textbooks were mostly secular workbooks (both ones intended for public schools and those intended for at-home use), and I was able to avoid “politically correct” content. I also intentionally avoided anything which required calculator use, as I agree that anything below algebra can be done without a calculator, and is better understood if one first learns how to do the math sans calculator. (Besides, the kids were getting more than enough calculator practice in their public-school math classes!) If I were still supplemental-homeschooling kids (or grandkids), I would like to see which textbooks did pass muster with the state of Florida, so I could research reviews of them myself and consider whether any of them were ones I would want to use with my own students.

    • When asked by my Econ students if they can use a calculator I told them that calculators simply help you get the wrong answer faster if you don’t understand the process and the interpretation of the calculated values are what is important. Most of the calculations involved simple arithmetic.

  6. Here is what bugs me about this (and, mind you, I have not read the article):

    Remember those stories about word problems in math classes in the inner city that talked about drug transactions where you had to figure out how much money you would need from your six friends to buy 11 grams of marijuana (blah, blah, blah). Remember how everybody was shaking their heads about how dumb and inappropriate for such math problems to be included in course instruction?

    There are a lot of people who are not shaking their heads anymore.

    -Jut

  7. I’ve wondered if the seeming tendency of tech nerd oligarchs (Zuckerberg, Dorsey, etc.) to go woke isn’t grounded in their NOT being one of the “cool kids”, and seeking that status now. Elon doesn’t seem to care; maybe he’s their moral superior, or maybe his Asperger’s just protects him.

  8. A train full of LGBTQIA’s+ Left the Fantasy
    Land station at 9:30. At 10:00 a train from Jungle land with descendants of the African diaspora departs What time do they meet to Free Willy at Marineworld.

  9. Do we have examples of the lessons in question?

    I assume this comes in the form of word problems like “Johnny has 5 apples, he gives away 3, how many apples does Johnny have left?”

    All problems and lessons that are conveyed in “real world” examples to demonstrate the practicality of math – “you are driving to the store, 10 miles away, at 30 miles per hour, how long does it take you to get there” – require some sort of message. Granted, in the two silly examples I’ve given, the message is about as benign as it can get.

    But, words still have meaning. And therefore must originate from some commonly held idea of what is true.

    So, I’ll ask – if we are going down the insane rabbit holes of opinion that some ivory towers believe is truth – then *why wouldn’t* word problems reflect that?

    As I posited last year on a similar topic:

    “1) If we are going to pursue this insanity as a society, then why wouldn’t teachers be compelled to teach this? Sidebar: this is why this topic is going to have to come to some sort of decisive point – and conservatives had better start getting a collective back bone and fighting back.

    2) Isn’t a public school teacher just an employee of the state and their personal preferences don’t get to override policy, right?

    3) AGAIN, this is abject foolishness. This seems like such a small hill to die on, but I’m increasingly seeing a lot of basic truths about life and our culture being described as “too small of a hill to die on”, but I’m also increasingly convinced that while each individual hill could be too small to die on, the cluster of hills together are a strong hold that must be held at all costs and the loss of one leads to the loss of all.”

  10. What’s been interesting to me recently is the fundamental lack of self awareness exhibited from progressives in these cases.

    I get it. They’re bubbled. They do a disproportionate amount of their communication either with people who already think like them or with strangers on platforms that filter their already tilted perspectives through algorithms or self curation. But at some point it beggars belief.

    I wrote about CRT last June (https://humbletalent.substack.com/p/critical-race-theory?s=w), and predicted that it would be the issue we’d still be talking about in 2022. It’s a racial issue, which progressives feel very strongly about. It’s an issue where they are wrong, but refuse to reflect on. And it’s an issue with a *very* interested and entrenched demographic involved (parents).

    What I said then, and expand on now, is that “CRT” carries a whole lot of semantic overload. Activists usually have a point when they say that things being called CRT are not actually CRT, but they don’t have a whole lot of room to gripe on the topic because that’s what they themselves were calling the broad activities that parents are finding objectionable. Parents are in essence saying “We don’t really care what you call it, these lesson plans are unacceptable. But we’re calling it CRT because you called it CRT, and we’re holding you accountable.” This is, by and large, a new experience for progressive activists who are more used to a game of rhetorical whack-a-mole with labels.

    Fast forward almost a year, and we’re still talking about the issue, and progressives just don’t seem to understand how their position here is deeply unpopular, particularly among parents. This is a huge miscalculation. Parents (particularly parents of K-12 students) tend to be younger adults, they may or may not have ever voted before in their lives, and they’re being turned into a right-of-center voting bloc. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

    It’s even crossing racial lines. Progressives now deride “Replacement Theory” as racist, but I’m old enough to remember when “Demographics are Destiny” was a popular talking point in Democrat circles. Hell, James Caville wrote a book that said the quiet part out loud after Obama cobbled his coalition together in 2008 in “40 More Years: How Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation”. You can’t simultaneously say that “minorities tend to vote Democracy”, “The increasing diversity of America will fundamentally change American values” and “The only reason Republicans oppose unrestricted immigration is racism.” without completely giving up the game. But it ended up not mattering: Minorities are not buying the new narratives like the good little voting blocks they’re supposed to be.

    I have theories on why that is, regardless of whether I’m right or wrong, the answer is going to be extremely multifaceted, but if I had to put my finger on one thing that I think more heavily weighs the scale here it’s that, fundamentally, it takes privilege to have the ability to care about the issues that progressives are preoccupied with, and the people we’re talking about aren’t privileged. This is even an argument in progressives might make about damn near anything else, and it’s one that I made about Canadian Politics during the last election:

    Picture a person who’s struggling. They’re having a hard time keeping food on the table. Bills are piling up. They have a health issue that regardless of their ability to afford is keeping them down. They’re caring for a family member. They’re experiencing depression from social isolation from Covid lockdowns. It doesn’t really matter why, what’s important is that they’re feeling pressure, they’re on the edge of disaster, how deeply do you think they care about the Democrat’s top issues? How much do you think they care if Lia Thomas gets to swim with the girls? How much do you think they care if groomer teachers get to talk to kids, theirs or otherwise, about sexual orientation or identity? How much do you think they care about CRT struggle sessions? Caring about someone else’s problems has to be higher up Maslow’s Hierarchy than caring about your own. That’s not greedy, that’s not entitled, it’s survival. And mocking that as “white”, “male”, “straight” or “cis” privilege won’t change anything except their perception of you. Democrats have basically abandoned the platforms their middle class, blue collar base identified with, things like union support, or universal healthcare. Democrats would balk at that, but I’d ask them to be honest: The media will run anything to distract from Biden. When’s the last time they talked about healthcare? And while similarly it might be hard for those struggling people to care about right-of-center issues like the withdrawal from Afghanistan or Ukraine, they sure as hell feel the price of gas. They are acutely aware of out of stocks, and messaging from Democrats has been horrible on both: For inflation, the journey from “There is no inflation” to “the inflation is transitory” to “inflation is actually good” to “the inflation is Russia’s fault” would be comical if it weren’t so serious, and Jen Psaki talking about how you’re going to have to wait a little while longer for your Peloton won’t keep the dairy shelves full.

    And yet… Reality asserts itself. These are the things they talk about. Those are the things they care about.

    They deserve to lose.

      • Thanks! And about the same.

        Honestly? I think I’d have more success if I wrote more regularly, and about more topical things, but that kind of defeats the point of what I was trying to do. Primarily, I wanted to write things down so I’d have some quick-access material on evergreen issues. Secondarily, I wanted to have ideas that were unusual, or had a unique twist to them… If I wrote on the Will Smith slap, as an example, I could be informative and witty, and there’s value in both, but literally everyone and their dog had already voiced an opinion over the week… I had no idea what I could add to the discourse.

    • “How much do you think they care if groomer teachers get to talk to kids, theirs or otherwise, about sexual orientation or identity?”

      It’s increasingly apparent that yes, parents, care almost as much about this topic as they do about the price of gas and groceries. And that care doesn’t accrue to the hyper-progressive’s benefit.

      • Obviously.

        I meant that even among people who support the Democrat narrative on alphabet soup issues in education, if you force them to choose between survival issues and affirmation issues, survival is going to win (or they won’t).

        To be fair, there are people who view these things as a survival issue (I disagree with them, obviously, and suggest they touch some grass at their earliest convenience), but those people are 1) a fractional minority, and 2) they fill up the same gas stations and buy food from the same grocery stores as everyone else. This should not be hard math. But apparently their learning political strategy and math out of those CRT textbooks.

  11. “You can’t simultaneously say that “minorities tend to vote Democracy”, “The increasing diversity of America will fundamentally change American values” and “The only reason Republicans oppose unrestricted immigration is racism.” without completely giving up the game.”

    Democrat* obviously. Damn you autocorrect.

  12. Meh.
    Certainly the injection of any kind of political agenda into elementary school math textbooks is a significant problem. Or at least it would be, if it actually happened on anything like a regular basis. What I find most interesting about this case is the fact that neither Governor DeSantis nor anyone on the Board of Education has (yet, as I write this) shown an example of the offending material from any of the books that have been sanctioned. I presumed that since the list of books has indeed been made public, numerous such examples will soon be forthcoming. Then we can make an informed judgment. Except, of course, now the governor is claiming the specifics are “proprietary information” as publishers weigh possible appeals to the rejections. Were I of a cynical disposition (perish the thought!), I might suggest that that delay ought to get him past the November elections.
    What we have by way of example, at least that I can find, is an obviously absurd question that appeared on a homework sheet in a Missouri school. Back when I was blogging more regularly, I’d write about similarly stupid assignments several times a year. I’ve got to yield here to Florida State Representative Carlos Smith’s observation that “The best his [DeSantis’s] propaganda machine could do was deflect to a Missouri district that apologized for a homework assignment they didn’t approve.” Importantly, the worksheet was pulled from a website, not a textbook. So we can’t blame McGraw-Hill or Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt for that particular outrageousness.
    If there’s one statement of opinion I’m willing to take as fact, it’s that politicians, all of them, lie. And Governor DeSantis is unquestionably trying to position himself as a national political figure within his party by throwing out red meat to the True Believers. The fact that he hasn’t shown any (literally any) actual evidence of intrusions into appropriate pedagogy is to be ignored. He becomes a champion of the anti-Woke without having to do anything but spout off about problems that are quite likely exaggerated, isolated, or outright fabricated.
    None of this is meant to suggest that the proclamation by the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics is anything but, well, nuts, or that there aren’t a few crazies on the left who believe in this sort of nonsense. But I confess that I am long since past patience when even people whose commentary I have long respected (you, Jack, and Humble Talent, to name two) start telling me what I, as a progressive, believe. I refuse to be lumped in with the unthinking gaggle of leftist drones, just as I hope those to my political right choose not to be associated with the believers in Jewish space lasers.
    If and when I see evidence that Governor DeSantis has identified real problems that are qualitatively and/or quantitatively significant, I’ll change my opinion. Right now all I see is a grand-standing anti-intellectual phony who cares more about his political future than about either children or education.
    I will certainly grant that publishers are interested in making a buck more than anything else. Of course, I live in a state in which the state Board of Education exercises even more control over textbooks than Florida’s does. The state of Texas is the largest book-buyer in the country; if your book is used in every Texas classroom, you’re making a pot of money. Conversely, why publish a book if you know it’s going to be rejected by the hacks who make up the Board of Education? The result is that publishers pander to the extreme, and I do mean extreme, right-wing agenda of the TBOE. I see no reason to believe that similar issues of prior restraint wouldn’t apply to Florida.
    A few examples of what I’m talking about, Texas version: A few years ago, James Madison—you know, the Father of the Constitution”—was removed from the “required” list for schoolkids because he advocated the separation of church and state. The primary cause of the Civil War wasn’t slavery at all, apparently, just because the secessionists said it was; that ranked third, after “sectionalism” (whatever the hell that is) and states’ rights (rights to do what?). A children’s book was forbidden (unread, of course) because the author had the same name (shared by thousands of other Americans) as someone who wrote a book about Marxism. (This one was eventually fixed, without apology, of course.) Third graders (!) must consider the “impact of taxes and government regulations on consumer prices”; they get to be a little older before they must “evaluate efforts by global organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty through the use of treaties.” Tell me again how it’s only the left that wants to indoctrinate schoolchildren.
    Few people care less about education than politicians. By “education” here I mean the real thing, in and of itself, not to be confused with the ability to weaponize it for political gain. Any attempt to suggest that one party has a monopoly on trying to pervert the system for political purposes is naïve at best, mendacious at worst.

    • 1. Yes indeed, I want to see what in the math textbooks led to the rejection. I presume it was something. That’s why EA waded into this:in math, there is no excuse for any distractions at all, and the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics coming out with its statement at the same time seemed to give a strong clue.

      2. The best I could find was the current adopted list and the materials not recommended for adoption Which doesn’t help without the book itself.

      3. Nancy Velardi, the President of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, says she could understand if books didn’t conform with the new B.E.S.T. Standards, but says she struggles to understand what they might have found in a math book that would indoctrinate students.
      “No civilization has ever benefited from banning books,” said Velardi. “It has led to much more dangerous activities, and I think that this is a dangerous road and that Florida needs to be rethinking how they want their children to be educated.”

      She doesn’t see how math books can include indoctrination? She doesn’t have much imagination. Her protest makes me mores suspicious, not less.

      4. Hey, not fair using history! History is doomed as a subject: every choice, every omission, every point of emphasis or summary, can be twisted for indoctrination purposes, right, left or racial or gender. That should not be an issue with math. No?

      5. I think the Civil War question is tough. My answer: the war was fought over the legality of and ability of the states to pull out of the US if they chose, never mind the reason. The South had the law and common sense on its side; Lincoln knew that the split would be a disaster, and went to war to stop it.Slavery was certainly the main triggering issue, but most Confederates thought they were fighting for their state’s sovereignty and “right” not to be distracted by the national government.

      • See, this is where we disagree. You think it has to be something. I think that if the best they can do for evidence is clearly irrelevant, then, like Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, there is no there there. Like the last election, it isn’t about who you think is trustworthy; it’s about who is less untrustworthy. I’ll always go with whoever isn’t a politician until there’s more evidence at hand.

        • It’s a valid position. Present esteemed company excluded, however, I trust the NEA, teachers, and the educational establishment no more than I trust politicians or the news media.

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