2 Holocaust textbooks rejected by Florida Department of Education
Heard-Tribune | By Cheryl McCloud | May 17, 2023
The Florida Department of Education has approved 66 social studies textbooks that can be purchased by school districts, but two Holocaust-related books on the reject list have grabbed national attention.
Both of the textbooks included in the rejection list were on the Holocaust: “Modern Genocides” and “History of the Holocaust.” Both were intended for high school students.
The Times of Israel, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Newsweek , CNN and NPR have all written about rejection of the books in connection with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign against what some call “woke” education.
Another publisher was forced to alter a passage about the Hebrew Bible to meet state approval, according to The Times of Israel.
How many textbooks were approved by the Florida Department of Education?
The approved list includes state standards-aligned social studies curriculum for every grade level with 66 of 101 submitted materials approved to date.
These textbooks are now available for purchase by school districts across the state.
How many books were originally rejected by Florida?
When submitted materials were first reviewed, 19 of 101 were initially approved. The rest were rejected due to inaccurate material, errors and other information not aligned with Florida Law, according to the Florida Department of Education.
Since then, the department worked directly with publishers, who have “updated their materials to comply with Florida’s rigorous standards.”
“To uphold our exceptional standards, we must ensure our students and teachers have the highest quality materials available – materials that focus on historical facts and are free from inaccuracies or ideological rhetoric,” said Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr.
Can publishers appeal the decision to reject a textbook?
Yes. The Department of Education will to work with publishers in an effort to include as many textbooks on the state adoption list as possible.
Publishers have the ability to appeal any non-adoption decision. Publishers can also make revisions that would be reviewed to ensure the final materials “align to Florida’s state academic standards.”
Why were the Holocaust textbooks rejected?
“Modern Genocides” was rejected in part for its discussion of “special topics” prohibited by the state, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The list of such topics includes terms such as “social justice” and “critical race theory,” the agency reported.
Both of the rejected works received low scores from the state’s educational review committee.
What change had to be made in the textbook that referenced the Hebrew Bible?
According to state documents cited by The Times of Israel, the book’s original version included a question for students reading, “What social justice issues are included in the Hebrew Bible?”
That was altered to an approved version that replaced the phrase “social justice issues” with the term “key principles.” The state’s rationale for the change was that the original phrasing used “Politically charged language when referencing the Hebrew Bible.”
Do Florida schools teach about the Holocaust?
Yes. In Florida schools, the Holocaust will be taught “with content infused in ways that are age-appropriate, interdisciplinary, and in every grade-level,” according to the Florida Department of Education.
In 1994, the Florida Legislature passed the Holocaust Education Bill. It requires all school districts to incorporate lessons on the Holocaust as part of public-school instruction in grade K-12.
The state mandate requires that the “Holocaust is to be taught as a uniquely important event in modern history,emphasizing the systemic and state-sponsored violence, which distinguish it from other genocides.”
Alex Lanfranconi, the education department’s director of communications, reportedly told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Florida has “many textbooks and other approved instructional materials that support our efforts to make sure our students never forget about the horrific annihilation of Jews by Nazi Germany.”