Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
2 + 2 = 4 should be an answer that everyone, regardless of politics or race, can agree on, but in a world in which equity insists that 2 + 2 = 5, the War on Math is underway in our schools.
Florida’s Gov DeSantis struck a blow for math by setting clear educational standards for textbooks and rejecting those educational materials that failed to meet those standards.
And the media, with predictable malice, decided to have another fake news field day.
“DeSantis Saves Florida Kids From Being Indoctrinated With Math,” the Washington Post sneered. “I’m Going to Florida So Gov. Ron DeSantis Can Keep My Kids Safe From ‘Woke’ Math,” USA Today jeered. “DeSantis Warns That Math Makes Children Gay,” the New Yorker giggled.
(One of those is a parody, but with the media parody is indistinguishable from journalism.)
Fifteen of the rejected textbooks came from Savvas (formerly Pearson) whose CEO Bethlam Forsa has said that “as an extension of our core values of expanding equity and empathy, culturally responsive learning must be woven into everything we do” including “the curriculum we build”.
Six came from Big Ideas Learning which promoted “teaching with equity in the math classroom” and urged promoting “students of color to leadership roles for in-class activities”.
Nine came from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt whose mission statement declares, “we believe in social justice, we believe that the education system needs to change, and we will continue to use our platform to make that change.”
Eight came from McGraw Hill which claims to focus on “educational equity” and whose CEO stated that “equity” is “a core part of our mission.”
Are the results really surprising?
While ‘wokeness’ has gotten the most attention, the core issues, as Gov. DeSantis noted, were compromised educational standards. Florida is not just keeping wokeness out of the math curriculum, but the old discredited Common Core standard, which DeSantis is eliminating from the state’s educational system, and other tainted approaches that keep students from learning.
Florida’s Department of Education had two reasons for rejecting math textbooks. The first was that they failed to meet standards scores and the other was the inclusion of “special topics” or “unsolicited strategies”.
The biggest problem in unsolicited strategies is what’s called SEL or Social and Emotional Learning. SEL waters down subjects like math while leaving students ignorant.
“Math is about getting the right answer,” Gov. DeSantis said, explaining why Florida had rejected so many math textbooks. “It’s not about how you feel about the problem or to introduce some of these other things. There’s a right answer and there’s a wrong answer. And we want our students getting the right answer.”
Gov. DeSantis correctly pointed out the problem with SEL is that it’s emotionally centered.
SEL is a trojan horse for bringing equity into classrooms. And the aggressive push to embed SEL into classrooms has been directed by the usual foundations who have already broken much of the educational system. Curriculums are now evaluated for compatibility with SEL. And SEL is used to reinvent how to approach hard science subjects with disastrous results that prioritize feelings and cultural relevancy over competence and achievement.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida made the right decision to keep SEL out of state schools when possible. And to reject math textbooks that utilize SEL rather than actual math skills.
Florida’s Department of Education noted that a number of the rejected math textbooks had the “unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in mathematics”. A full 21 percent were “not included on the adopted list because they incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including CRT.”
SEL and similar approaches urge that math problems be made “socially and culturally relevant.” That means everything from referencing celebrities to making them into tools for teaching about social issues and problems. Cultural relevance is how math becomes woke and then broke.
Christine Pushaw, Gov. DeSantis’ press secretary, shared an example of an SEL influenced math exam which posed the following problem to students. “Angelou was sexually abused by her mother’s ____ at age 8” and offered them the option of filling in “boyfriend”, “brother” or “pimp”.
Critics pointed out that the math problem in question came out of Missouri, but it embodied the SEL approaching of providing students with alternative “culturally relevant” ways of finding the values of “x” and “y” “y = x + 2” and “3x + 6y = 12” by answering culturally relevant questions.
This particular example may be outrageous, but it’s in keeping with SEL’s idea of equity which seeks to “shift power to students” by enabling them to use their “cultural knowledge” to solve problems. And, as in the case of this SEL math problem, the students aren’t learning anything.
Certainly not anything related to math.
Beyond SEL absurdities like these which deprive the very minority students they claim to be trying to help of basic mathematical skills, the growing push to make math socially relevant means that mathematics textbooks increasingly sound like civics classes.
Take Thinking Quantitatively: Communicating with Numbers, one of the textbooks rejected by Florida, which claims that it “empowers students to develop the critical-thinking and math skills they need to become informed and numerically literate citizens” and “make decisions with data they will encounter every day in their personal, civic, and business lives”.
One of the author’s worksheets, listed on his blog, uses a graphic from Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and tells students “explain how this chart indicates hydrocarbon usage and NOT solar activity are causing global warming.”
Math problems shouldn’t require political affirmation. And math isn’t a civics class.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is fighting to protect math education in Florida. Along with education in general. That means in Florida, 2 + 2 will always equal 4, answers will be arrived at using objective rational laws, not “culturally relevant” feelings, and students won’t have to figure out who sexually abused Maya Angelou at the age of 8 in order to solve a math problem.
Woke math is the consequence of watering down educational standards in the name of equity.
“Math is about getting the right answer,” Gov. DeSantis said. “It’s not about how you feel about the problem.” That’s why DeSantis has the right answer to educational wokeness.
In Florida, math wins and wokeness loses.