Are MATH TEXTBOOKS Teaching Kids Critical Race Theory?????

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Well, I made it to May of 2022 before I finally gave up and decided to talk about “critical race theory,” or CRT, the latest straw-filled bogeyman being attacked by whatever alt-right morons haven’t died of COVID yet. I didn’t feel it was my place to comment before because from the moment it came up, there was a pretty easy response to Republicans crying about CRT being taught to children: it isn’t. The end.

Like, seriously, while most of its critics cannot give a cogent explanation for what CRT even is, it actually does have an explicit definition: thinking critically about the institutions we’ve built that uphold the continued oppression of marginalized people. This is something that we generally don’t expect, say, the average 8-year old to understand and engage in. It is something that intellectuals discuss. You know, when they’re adults. Arguing that CRT doesn’t belong in primary school is like arguing that theoretical physics doesn’t belong in primary school. Yes. Of course.

In order to be able to continue crying about CRT, though, its “critics” then decided that teaching kids anything about America’s very obvious racist history is “CRT” and also shouldn’t happen, like when one group claimed a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. was CRT. To extend the metaphor, this is how it went:

“Don’t teach theoretical physics to children.”

“Okay, we don’t.”

“Yes you do, my 11-year old came home today with this worksheet.”

“Well that’s just algebra…”

“Exactly, algebra is a fundamental pillar of theoretical physics.”


“Also, algebra sounds Muslim, best to get rid of it.”

The math metaphor isn’t just a random choice on my part…it’s at the forefront of my mind because Florida’s Ron DeSantis, the governor I probably talk about more than any other politician on this channel, has condemned the publishers of MATH TEXTBOOKS for attempting to use CRT to indoctrinate students. Math textbooks. For Kindergarten through 5th grade students. That’s like, ages 4-10.

According to a press release put out last month, the DeSantis administration claimed that they rejected 41% of math textbooks this year, half of which were rejected “because they incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including CRT.” I’ll be honest, I don’t remember my math textbooks from when I was 10 but I’m pretty sure I would recall if the word problems about the 2:30 train from Chicago also explored how “color-blind” legislation actually upholds racist power structures.

But according to DeSantis, ““It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students.”

So what WERE the examples of CRT in math textbooks for elementary school children? Well, that’s tough to answer because according to DeSantis’s own textbook reviewers, there weren’t any. According to Judd Legum of Popular.Info, “Each of the 16 reviews addressed the following question: “Do materials align to Rule 6A-1.094124, F.A.C., which prohibits Critical Race Theory (CRT), in instructional materials?”  Here are all 16 answers:

1. No CRT evident

2. No mention of CRT

3. No materials reviewed demonstrated CRT

4. No CRT concepts

5. No CRT present

6. None found

7. The material prohibits CRT in all the instructional materials

8. CRT not evident in SE [Student Edition] or TE [Teacher’s Edition]

9. Non [sic] present

10. CRT not found in the materials

11. Not seen

12. Yes they align

13. No evidence of CRT

14. I did not see evidence that this was violated

15. No presentation of CRT in materials

16. Does not include

After Legum posted this, the Press Secretary for the Florida Department of Education contacted him to say he was very misleading, because “Even if a textbook reviewer specifically wrote “No CRT” it was still evidence of CRT if the reviewer gave the textbook a 4 (“good alignment) instead of 5 (“very good alignment”).” When Legum asked for evidence of CRT in the textbooks that the reviewers marked as “no CRT,” there was a lot of back and forth before they insisted that this was the evidence that supported their claim: four out-of-context photos of textbooks SENT TO THEM BY THE GENERAL PUBLIC (so, not necessarily all examples from the textbooks DeSantis was bashing), none of which are from textbooks for kids in elementary school and at least two of which are obviously written for high school teachers.

DeSantis’s press secretary also added this damning photo…of a homework assignment given to some high school students in Missouri, for which the school district apologized and clarified was unapproved and not part of the curriculum.

The Florida textbook reviewers DID claim to find CRT in high school textbooks, but it turns out that most of the “problematic” textbooks were identified by one “guest reviewer” by the name of Chris Allen. She’s a member of the anti-CRT activist group Moms of Liberty, which is the group I referenced earlier who claimed a biography of MLK was CRT that should be banned. Wow, I’m shocked she found problematic things in high school textbooks. Come to think of it, I’m genuinely shocked she couldn’t find problematic things in the textbooks for children. Surely there’s a 1st grade book with a white boy giving two bananas to a black boy, which is obviously an endorsement of reparations.

But yeah, Allen said that she’s the one who snapped two of the photos on the Department of Education’s website that they claimed supported their assertion that textbooks were indoctrinated children in kindergarten through 5th grade: photos of textbooks that were for high schoolers.

So why did DeSantis’s administration even spread this ridiculous lie? Well! Just ask prominent CRT-critic Chris Rufo, who the New Yorker credits with starting the anti-CRT trend. According to that piece, he’s quite open about his goals:

“As Rufo eventually came to see it, conservatives engaged in the culture war had been fighting against the same progressive racial ideology since late in the Obama years, without ever being able to describe it effectively. “We’ve needed new language for these issues,” Rufo told me, when I first wrote to him, late in May. “ ‘Political correctness’ is a dated term and, more importantly, doesn’t apply anymore. It’s not that elites are enforcing a set of manners and cultural limits, they’re seeking to reengineer the foundation of human psychology and social institutions through the new politics of race, It’s much more invasive than mere ‘correctness,’ which is a mechanism of social control, but not the heart of what’s happening. The other frames are wrong, too: ‘cancel culture’ is a vacuous term and doesn’t translate into a political program; ‘woke’ is a good epithet, but it’s too broad, too terminal, too easily brushed aside. ‘Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain,” Rufo wrote.”

In March of 2021 Rufo Tweeted, “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think “critical race theory.” We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”
They turned the academic study of systemic racism into a Trojan horse that could nearly fit in any conservative ideology they’d like. Remember that when you see the usual outlets will continue to tell America’s most credulous sheeple that elementary school children are being indoctrinated into a CRT cult by their math textbooks. If you see someone repeat that lie, know that it’s not really about math textbooks in Florida: it’s about the alt-right censoring everything they hate about a progressive society and sowing distrust in our education system.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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