Social Studies

Authors of New Louisiana Social Studies Standards Disavow Revised Version

By Will Sentell, The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. — March 10, 2022 3 min read
State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley speaks during a news conference at the Knock Knock Children's Museum, in Baton Rouge, La., on Aug. 11, 2021.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Some of the authors of the first draft of new social studies standards disavowed the final version approved by Louisiana’s top school board Wednesday and said they were unfairly criticized for trying to inject a distorted version of the state’s racial history.

The criticism was included in an email sent to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley on the eve of the vote to endorse the new benchmarks after a 14-month review that sparked controversy.

It was signed by nine of the 27 members of a steering committee of educators and others named by state officials to recommend new guidelines, including the two parent representatives on the panel.

Aaron Jura, one of the nine and a school curriculum writer, said Wednesday the new benchmarks are less progressive than those in Mississippi.

Jura, who lives in New Orleans, said the department “listened to a very well organized minority of people who were misinformed.”

The committee endorsed its recommendations last September, which were then revised by Brumley and the state Department of Education amid a flurry of public comments.

BESE tentatively approved the revised standards Tuesday and gave final approval Wednesday with little discussion both times.

In an email dated Monday, the nine asked that the steering committee get another chance to review the final version and, if not, it would be clear BESE’s original goals of the update would not be met and the committee did not approve of the final product.

It said the benchmarks do not include information needed for students to gain a more coherent version of history, better prepare elementary students for secondary and postsecondary work and to ensure historical perspectives from a wide range of backgrounds.

See Also

Image of a social study book coming to visual life with edits to the content.
Illustration by Laura Baker/Education Week (Source imagery: Orensila and iStock/Getty)
Social Studies Revising America's Racist Past
Stephen Sawchuk, January 18, 2022
27 min read

“We understand that revising social studies standards during this highly divisive political moment in our history is complicated,” according to the email sent to Brumley and all 11 members of BESE.

“However, it is during such times that following a pre-determined procedure designed by the Louisiana Department of Education becomes all the more important,” it says.

Both Brumley and BESE President Jim Garvey disputed the criticism.

“I am proud of our process,” Brumley said, noting the changes won approval from BESE without a “no” vote.

The nine dissenters were especially incensed over charges that the steering committee was pushing critical race theory — the view that the legacy of White supremacy remains pervasive in the nation’s laws and institutions.

Some members of the public made that criticism during a fiery five-hour meeting last June, including charges that White students would be made to feel guilty and that the initial draft standards produced an overly bleak view of Louisiana and the nation’s history.

A few weeks later Brumley said public hearings on the issue would be delayed two months, and he tried to defuse one of the key controversies.

“I don’t believe critical race theory should be taught in K-12 education,” Brumley said at the time, and he repeated that view later.

See Also

States Tracker Map: Where Critical Race Theory Is Under Attack
Sarah Schwartz, June 11, 2021
4 min read

Some state lawmakers and others who were initially critical of the process praised revisions made by the department and later endorsed the standards.

Jura said critical race theory — what it means sparks arguments — was never part of the focus of the work groups.

“I read through some of the public comments that inaccurately assessed that CRT was included,” he said.

“But the comments themselves are directly attributable to special interest groups outside of the state,” Jura added. “They are literally copy and paste jobs from websites. They are not based in fact.”

Jura said one of the casualties of the department’s revisions was an account of how people of color in Louisiana played significant roles in the American Revolution and the Battle of New Orleans.

“And the new standards do not even take into account their place in Louisiana’s and the nation’s history,” he said. “That is egregious.”

Asked about the criticism, Brumley said Tuesday the steering committee’s recommendations set a foundation for department officials to work from and one that generated about 1,500 public comments.

Garvey noted that the standards underwent multiple revisions.

“I think they did their job,” he said of steering committee members. “I think they were utilized properly.”

Justin Winder, one of three students on the committee and one of the dissenters, said the panel worked for four months to craft better standards.

“And then a year later we heard that they wanted to do it their way and not as diverse as we planned it to be,” said Winder, a junior at Ponchatoula High School.

Copyright (c) 2022, The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The Key to Better Learning: Indoor Air Quality
Learn about the importance of improved indoor air quality in schools, and how to pick the right solutions for educators, students, and staff.
Content provided by Delos
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leading Systemic Redesign: Strategies from the Field
Learn how your school community can work together to redesign the school system, reengineer instruction, & co-author personalized learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Social Studies Opinion I Am a High School Junior. I’m Not Prepared to Vote
I will be voting for the rest of my life, so why aren't I taught how to do so in school?
Sidhi Dhanda
3 min read
Illustration of diverse hands holding up checkmarks
iStock/Getty
Social Studies Is a Comprehensive U.S. History Course Still Possible? Scholars Weigh In
Historians say a pluralistic view is possible, but more needs to be done to help students explore contested narratives and perspectives.
5 min read
111622 GLC Conference 1 BS
History teachers from across the country discuss innovative ways to teach racial history at a conference hosted earlier this month by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Vieira
Social Studies What the Research Says Elections Depend on Young Voters. Can Civics Tests Drive Up Their Turnout?
New research suggests that states' efforts to require civics testing for high school students largely fell flat.
3 min read
Ben Wigginton contemplates his votes at the Braddock Heights Community Center in Braddock Heights, Md., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
Ben Wigginton contemplates his vote at a community center in Braddock Heights, Md., on Nov. 8.
Ric Dugan/The Frederick News-Post via AP
Social Studies Opinion What’s the Point of Civics Education?
Teachers seem to be embracing a notion of civics education that is largely content-free.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty