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Two longtime St. Johns County educators differ on the state's math textbook decisions

"I should not have to be responsible for educating students on social matters. That is what they have parents for," said St. Johns County math teacher Lee DeWitt.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla — When the Florida Department of Education rejected nearly half of the state’s math text books this week, people – including reporters -- wanted examples of what the state found to be "impermissible."

Thursday night, the state released some examples, not from its own review of textbooks, but from parents submitting items they found questionable. 

First Coast News send the examples to St. Johns County educators to get their take.

The Florida DOE says the books have been rejected because they include references to critical race theory, common core curriculum, or something called social – emotional learning.

All the focus of Governor Ron DeSantis' crackdown on those topics. 

Two of the four examples the state shared Thursday were actual math problems. The other two appeared to be from lesson instructions for teachers.

One math problem was based on data that tests people on their level of racial prejudice. It states: "What? Me? Racist? More than 2 million people have tested their racial prejudice using an online version of the Implicit Association Test.," and the math problem continues. 

Another excerpt shows lesson objectives saying students should be able to "build proficiency with social awareness as they practice with empathizing with classmates."

Michelle Dillon leads the St. Johns Education Association.  

Friday, she told First Coast News, "I thought the examples were fine. I personally didn't see a problem with them. I think our governor is trying to create a problem that doesn't exist to gain political points."

However, St. Johns County math teacher Lee DeWitt believes the examples should not be in text books. 

She told First Coast News, "...inserting CRT (critical race theory) into a math curriculum is unnecessary. Math is an analytical process that presents multiple challenges to students. Adding in a societal or political issue won’t help. I don’t really see a need for that in public education.”

DeWitt also said, "I should not have to be responsible for educating students on social matters. That is what they have parents for. So much is put on a teacher’s plate today, that these are things best left to discuss at home."

Dillon with the teachers union wonders if state leaders are picking apart math books,  what will happen when they start looking at more social subjects such as history and literature?

"I wish -- and I think most of our educators want -- to focus on a problem that does exist, and that is a critical teacher shortage and support staff shortage," Dillon said. 

These are two longtime educators in the state’s leading school district with different views of the math book issue.