State Watch

Florida textbook altered to remove references to Rosa Parks’s race: report

A Florida textbook publisher removed all references of race from a lesson about civil rights icon Rosa Parks in order to get a Florida committee’s approval, according to The New York Times. 

Parks helped spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott after she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., bus in 1955. 

In the current lesson by Studies Weekly, which is used in 45,000 elementary schools, the event is described: “The law said African Americans had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person wanted to sit down.” 

But in an early version created for Florida’s review by Studies Weekly, the lesson changed to: “She was told to move to a different seat because of the color of her skin.” 

In the group’s second updated version, race is removed completely from the lesson: “She was told to move to a different seat.”

Studies Weekly also made changes to their fourth-grade lesson about segregation laws.

In the initial version, the text explained how Black Americans were affected by Jim Crow laws that arose after the Civil War, but like its updates to the Parks lesson, the second version eliminated almost every direct mention of race. Instead, the lessons were changed to say it was illegal for “men of certain groups” to be unemployed and that “certain groups of people” were not allowed to serve on a jury.

Florida is currently reviewing social studies curriculum, which includes flagging any topics that could be deemed as critical race theory, a collegiate-level framework used to explain systemic racism in the United States that has become a political catch-all buzzword for any teaching on race.

Though Florida’s Department of Education mandates the teaching of Black history, critical race theory is banned in Florida public schools — though most experts on the subject say it is not taught in elementary or even high schools. 

Still, the theory has become a major point of contention for Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed legislation last year that prohibits instruction that could make students feel responsibility, guilt or anguish for what other members of their race did in the past. 

DeSantis’s administration has taken this law and used it to reject more than 40 math textbooks for allegedly incorporating “prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies,” including critical race theory. This year, his administration banned an Advanced Placement African American studies course from running in schools, accusing the college board of “indoctrination not education.” 

Meanwhile, Republicans in the state this month introduced legislation to ban Florida colleges and universities from running programs that promote diversity, equity and inclusion in colleges and universities. 

Still, the Florida Department of Education suggested that Studies Weekly had overreached in its efforts to follow Florida law, saying that any publisher that “avoids the topic of race when teaching the Civil Rights movement, slavery, segregation, etc. would not be adhering to Florida law,” the department said in a statement to the New York Times.

But during the curriculum review, Florida Citizens Alliance, a conservative education group whose co-founders served on DeSantis’s education advisory team during his transition to governor, advised the state to reject 28 of the 38 textbooks it was tasked to review, including more than a dozen by major national publisher McGraw Hill. According to the New York Times, the group’s members accused publishers of “promoting their bias.” 

The group objected to a fifth-grade textbook mentioning slavery 189 times and that an eighth-grade book gave too much attention to the “negative side” of the treatment of Native Americans without detailing instances of their own violence, such as the Jamestown Massacre of 1622, when Powhatan warriors killed more than 300 English colonists.

Studies Weekly has removed its second version of the curriculum from its website and withdrawn its lessons from the state’s review following questions from New York Times. Florida is expected to announce its textbook decisions in the coming weeks.

Tags Ron DeSantis

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