Florida School Board Postpones Vote on Textbooks Until Publisher Addresses Pro-BLM and CRT Content

Florida School Board Postpones Vote on Textbooks Until Publisher Addresses Pro-BLM and CRT Content
Awaiting the members of the Collier County School Board to convene the hearing regarding textbooks being considered for adoption for use in the district’s classrooms, on May 7, 2021. (Patricia Tolson/The Epoch Times)
Patricia Tolson

On June 7, the Collier County School Board (CCSB) convened a hearing to discuss the textbooks being considered for adoption for use in their school districts. However, when it was exposed that one of the publishers of the textbooks being considered—Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)—had posted a “commitment” to Black Lives Matter (BLM) on their website, the board unanimously voted to postpone their decision until that revelation could be investigated.

Approximately 60 people attended the hearing. The vast majority being parents and other citizens who came to express their fierce opposition to the textbooks the board proposed to adopt, out of fear they contained principles of Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Ironically, it was CCSB Vice-Chair Jen Mitchell—not one of the hearing’s attendees nor the 15 citizens who registered to address the board directly—who exposed the incendiary content she found on the HMH website.

Mitchell said she learned of the content through an email she received from a concerned citizen. The citizen told her “if you take a deeper dive” on the HMH website, you will find a post declaring their “commitment” to Black Lives Matter (BLM). She further revealed to Mitchell that one of BLM’s greatest advocates in the education field—Dr. Tyrone Howard—had been given a platform to promote the principles of CRT and his support for BLM through the HMH blog site.

“It’s also important that the teachers, schools, and readers we serve have no doubt about where we stand on the issue of racism and the ways we are using our platform to make much-needed change,” Mitchell quoted directly from the HMH website. “That’s why today we posted our commitment. Black Lives Matter.”

“We believe Black Lives Matter,” the HMH declaration states further. “We believe in social justice. We believe learning is a fundamental right. We believe the education system needs to change, and we will continue to use our platform to make that change.”

Mitchell further noted that a week later, a blog by Dr. Tyrone Howard—titled “Racial Literacy: A Call to Action for Teachers”—was posted on the HMH blog page, paradoxically called, “Shaped.” “One of the biggest challenges to discussions about race and racism in the classroom is that approximately 80 percent of teachers are white,” Howard stated, opining further that “many white teachers are uncomfortable talking about race” due to what “social justice educator” and author Robin DiAngelo describes as “white fragility.”

“White fragility makes many teachers afraid of discussing race, claiming they ‘don’t see color,’” Howard claimed.

“The times demand that white teachers step up and increase their racial literacy,” Howard demanded, insisting that “racial literacy also requires teachers to engage in serious self-reflection about their feelings on race, diversity, and opportunity for students of color” and suggesting that white teachers begin their “self-reflection” by considering the following questions:
  • Am I aware of the racial composition of my classrooms?
  • What is the racial make-up of staff at my school?
  • Am I familiar with racial microaggressions and do I commit them?
  • Do I acknowledge my own racial privilege? (Please know that you can work hard and still have white privilege.)
  • Do I discipline students of color more than white students?
  • What were the messages that I received growing up about people from different racial backgrounds?
  • Do I recognize the myth of meritocracy?
  • What is the racial make-up of my social circle of friends?

Who Is Howard?

According to his profile on the HMH website, “Howard is a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he also serves as Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.”

He is also the director and founder of the Black Male Institute at UCLA, and “leads an interdisciplinary group of scholars, practitioners, community members, and policymakers dedicated to improving the educational experiences and life chances of males of color.”

The HMH website is not the only platform through which Howard advocates his racially charged opinions.

In his June 21, 2020, op-ed for EdSource, Howard addressed “educators who are on board for the fight for racial justice,” saying “we truly hope that you are here for the movement, and not just for the moment.”
In his June 25, 2020, op-ed for UCLA’s “Ampersand” blog, Howard credits BLM for the “beginnings of change.”
In his June 3, 2020, op-ed for Education Week—“How to Root Out Anti-Black Racism From Your School”–Howard wrote: “individual acts must transform into collective action, and educators can be part of that change.”
Howard’s opinions and the principles of BLM have also been supported through the Pittsburgh Public Schools website, which states “educators have a responsibility to validate and affirm the worth of Black students, families and colleagues by taking an antiracist stance.”

CCSB hearing moderator Steven Blount also informed the board that the forward in a teacher’s guide currently used by teachers in Collier County was also written by Howard. For that reason, Blount strongly advised the board to table their vote on the adoption of any HMH textbooks until the matter of its “commitment” to BLM could be further investigated.

Considering the recent ban of CRT from public schools by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, The Epoch Times reached out to his office to see if he had been informed yet of this recent development. He had not.

“We too are deeply concerned by the contents of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s website,” DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw told The Epoch Times. “Their website is not part of state-approved materials, and the content you pointed out will not be taught in Florida schools, but it is still alarming for us to see these divisive political ideologies promoted on a textbook publisher’s website.”

“The bottom line and objective of education is not to introduce ideology and fight political battles—it’s to prepare our students to be great citizens,” DeSantis’s Communications Director Taryn Fenske told The Epoch Times. “It’s not telling you what to think, but how to think, and to think critically—with the ultimate goal of ensuring Florida students become well-rounded, civically minded, productive members of society.”

On March 29, HMH was purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. for $349 million.

As Executive Chairman of News Corp. and Co-Chairman of Fox Corporation, Murdoch was touted as being in charge of “two of the most recognized and influential media companies in the world” on the News Corp. website.

According to its website, HMH is “the largest learning technology company in the K–12 market, serving 90% of the schools, teachers, and students in the U.S.”

Patricia Tolson is an award-winning Epoch Times reporter who covers human interest stories, election policies, education, school boards, and parental rights. Ms. Tolson has 20 years of experience in media and has worked for outlets including Yahoo!, U.S. News, and The Tampa Free Press. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]
Related Topics