How Textbook Publishers are Censoring the Story of Rosa Parks to Sell Books in FloridaHistorians in the News
tags: civil rights, Florida, African American history, Rosa Parks, textbooks, teaching history
The nitty-gritty process of reviewing and approving school textbooks has typically been an administrative affair, drawing the attention of education experts, publishing executives and state bureaucrats.
But in Florida, textbooks have become hot politics, part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign against what he describes as “woke indoctrination” in public schools, particularly when it comes to race and gender. Last year, his administration made a splash when it rejected dozens of math textbooks, citing “prohibited topics.”
Now, the state is reviewing curriculum in what is perhaps the most contentious subject in education: social studies.
In the last few months, as part of the review process, a small army of state experts, teachers, parents and political activists have combed thousands of pages of text — not only evaluating academic content, but also flagging anything that could hint, for instance, at critical race theory.
In an attempt to cater to Florida, at least one publisher made significant changes to its materials, walking back or omitting references to race, even in its telling of the Rosa Parks story.
The publisher, Studies Weekly, mostly serves younger students, with a focus on science and social studies, and its curriculum — short lessons in weekly pamphlets — is used in 45,000 schools across the country, according to its website. Its social studies materials are used in Florida elementary schools today.
The New York Times compared three versions of the company’s Rosa Parks story, meant for first graders: a current lesson used now in Florida, an initial version created for the state textbook review and a second updated version.
Some of the material was provided by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, a progressive parent group that has fought book ban efforts in the state, and confirmed by The Times.
In the current lesson on Rosa Parks, segregation is clearly explained: “The law said African Americans had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person wanted to sit down.”
But in the initial version created for the textbook review, race is mentioned indirectly.
“She was told to move to a different seat because of the color of her skin,” the lesson said.
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