(The Center Square) – Louisiana’s K-12 draft social studies standards will be submitted to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) in March, marking the board’s third planned attempt to adopt changes to the school curriculum.
BESE, the state’s top school board, opted to delay a January agenda item for the board to vote on the adoption of the standards to its March meeting, after an outpouring of public feedback during the standards’ required public comment period, which ended Nov. 30.
State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley recommended additional time to review the comments and include appropriate revisions before final adoption.
A total of 1,804 comments were submitted during the two-month period, with 44.5% coming from K-12 educators and 38.4% from parents, according to a Department of Education summary document. Other state residents and K-12 administrators contributed 9.1% and 4.7%, respectively.
Most comments came from Orleans and East Baton Rouge parishes, though submissions were spread throughout the state. Sentiments centering on race and history were the most prolific.
Many parents and concerned residents have expressed strong opposition to teaching children racial history and modern social critiques that comport with critical race theory. Supporters of the approach said it is necessary for properly understanding American history and society.
Critical race theory is defined differently according to different groups. The conservative Hillsdale College called it an “intellectual framework for identity-based Marxism.”
Columbia University, which calls critical race theory “urgent and necessary,” said it emphasizes ways in which “white supremacy” has subordinated minorities and impacted professed ideals such as “the rule of law and equal protection.”
Education officials organized the public comments by grade level and subject matter, such as civics, world geography, world history and U.S. history.
With respect to U.S. History, a self-identifying educator wrote: “I have reviewed the tenets of so called ‘Critical Race Theory’ as it is currently being taught in other places. I find it to be racist, divisive, oppressive, and inappropriate for students K-12.”
“I am demanding that our history is not erased based on political correctness,” reads another dissenting comment.
“My children will be removed from the school system if this curriculum is added,” another read.
While the public remarks included other areas of feedback, such as the ordering of social studies subjects and the time spent on individual issues, progressive commenters lodged many pro-change suggestions.
One comment said the draft curriculum doesn’t go far enough on racial history as it excludes in-depth exploration of slave revolts.
“This exclusion prevents children who are descended from enslaved Africans from knowing the history of resistance and strength of their ancestors and prevents all children from understanding the grave sins of our country that we must acknowledge to move past,” the comment said.
A Social Studies Standards Steering Committee meeting was overwhelmed in July when concerned parents rallied against the proposed changes. A follow-up meeting occurred Sept. 25, which ended with the steering committee passing the current draft standards, 19-1.
A final adoption meeting was subsequently planned for December but was delayed until January because of low early participation in the public comment process, indicating many parents were unaware.
The public comment period was originally spanned the month of October but was extended through the end of November to include more opportunities for state residents to weigh in.
The March BESE meeting could bring the long-overdue process to a close. Social studies content is supposed to be updated every seven years. The last update occurred in the 2010-11 school year, however.