(Studies Weekly’s social studies submissions were not approved for use in Florida.)
The state’s approved list of social studies textbooks will have a significant impact on how history is taught to nearly 3 million Florida public school students, on topics ranging from slavery and Jim Crow to the Holocaust.
Florida’s textbook approvals can also influence what students learn in other states. Fewer than half the states approve textbooks at a statewide level, but those that do include Florida, Texas and California, the three biggest markets. Publishers often cater to these states, using them as a template for the materials they offer in smaller markets.
Florida rejected some textbooks from large national publishers, like McGraw Hill and Savvas Learning. Those companies did not immediately respond to interview requests on Tuesday.
Another large publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, did not even bid in Florida’s social studies market this year.
Adam Laats, a historian of education at Binghamton University, said that for more than a century, American publishers have revised textbooks to appease political concerns, sometimes using razor blades to remove material on topics like evolution or Reconstruction.
The push to censor school materials has often come from conservatives, Professor Laats said — and in Florida’s announcement, he heard echoes of old battles. He noted that state policymakers cited “age appropriateness” in asking one publisher to remove the discussion of athletes taking a knee during the national anthem.
While the subject of police violence may indeed be disturbing to children, Professor Laats said, the state made no objection to another reference to violence and death on the very same page of the lesson: “Talk to your child about our military and how they sacrifice their lives for us,” the text states.
“Using age appropriateness is a strategic or tactical move,” he said, adding, “Parents and other stakeholders tend not to like the idea of textbooks having important information cut out. But parents are friendly to the idea of age appropriateness.”