Oklahoma Superintendent Spearheads Initiative to Keep Ideology Out of School Textbooks
A growing number of states, led by Oklahoma and Florida, are rejecting public school textbooks that they say contain “woke” concepts and ideologies like critical race theory (CRT) and are instead adopting materials that “focus on the basics.”
Last week, eight textbook publishers announced that they would be withdrawing their math books from consideration for approval by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. The move comes in the wake of the state passing a law in 2020 that requires an extra layer of review by experts to determine if the textbooks are of poor quality or contain controversial ideologies such as CRT and social emotional learning (SEL).
Other states such as Florida have also made it clear that they are not allowing ideologies into education materials for children. In April 2022, the state’s Department of Education announced that it had rejected 54 out of 132 math textbooks submitted by publishers because they did not meet its Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking Standards or included CRT and SEL concepts.
Oklahoma State School Superintendent Ryan Walters, who has been one of the leading public figures in the state’s effort to reform its education system, discussed the effect that upholding common sense standards can have on Monday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.”
“It’s amazing what happens when you speak clearly and you hold folks accountable,” he noted. “We have been very clear — we are not going to allow woke indoctrination or classroom. We’re going to get back to a focus on the basics. … [O]ur parents have spoken loudly and clearly: get the woke ideology out, help our kids learn to read and do math. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Walters continued, “[O]ur state legislature and our great governor, Kevin Stitt, [passed] laws that said, ‘Look, we’re not going to do critical race theory in the classroom.’ We passed rules here at the state Board of Education — we’re not going to allow all this sexualized material into the classroom, either. And we were very clear with vendors, we’re not going to do it.”
Walters further contended that his educational reform efforts are primarily aimed at helping families choose whatever type of school that best fits their child.
“[I]t’s a multi-faceted effort to get this ideology out of schools. Number one, you’ve got to go get it out of your public schools. … But number two, you’ve got to get more of an ability for kids to go to private and Christian schools if their parents want them to. And so we have the first Christian charter school in the country that’s going to open up here in Oklahoma. … [T]hese Christian schools, you’re not going to see them wanting to go push some kind of radical atheist ideology. … [G]ive parents the opportunity to send their kids to Christian schools so that your kid is going to have a great education and not have this type of left-wing ideology in their day-to-day school.”
In response to critics who argued that the eight textbook publishers pulling out of Oklahoma would be detrimental to the state’s students, Walters pointed to a wealth of other material that is available.
“[T]here’s plenty of great materials out there,” he underscored. “I mean, there [are] plenty of conservatives and Christians that are putting together materials. … The Left lost their mind here in Oklahoma when we made Prager University available statewide for every student [and] parent. … [T]here’s plenty of great material out there that talk about our founding. There’s plenty of great math material that can help students read on grade level. We’re never going to be held captive by woke companies trying to dictate to our state what our education system is going to look like.”
Walters went on to emphasize the positive response he has been getting from Oklahomans. “I’ve gotten so much correspondence from Oklahomans around the state thanking me for driving out these woke vendors. … [M]ost Oklahomans are going, ‘If they’re woke, see you later. Get out of the state.’”
Walters concluded by encouraging other states to follow Oklahoma’s lead in reforming public education.
“We have a path forward to put parents back in charge of their kids’ education, put God and prayer back in schools, drive the teachers’ unions out. … [W]e just launched the biggest tutoring initiative in the nation today to get our kids back on track with reading. You can do these things, but you have to beat back the unions [and] the woke ideology, embrace parents, and protect religious liberty in our schools, and we can get education back on track.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.