Some of the authors of the first draft of new social studies standards disavowed the final version approved Wednesday by Louisiana’s top school board and said they had been unfairly criticized for trying to inject a distorted version of the story race of the state.
The criticism was included in an email sent to the state Council on Elementary and Secondary Education and state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley on the eve of the vote to approve the new criteria after a review of 14 months which sparked controversy.
It was signed by nine of the 27 members of a steering committee of educators and others appointed by state officials to recommend new guidelines, including the group’s two parent representatives.
Aaron Jura, one of the nine and school curriculum writer, said Wednesday that the new benchmarks are less progressive than those in Mississippi.
Letter from some members of the steering committee disavowing the final version of the social studies programs
Jura, who lives in New Orleans, said the department “listened to a very well-organized minority of misinformed people.”
The committee approved its recommendations last September, which were later revised by Brumley and the state Department of Education amid a flurry of public comment.
BESE provisionally approved the revised standards on Tuesday and gave final approval on Wednesday with little discussion both times.
In an email dated Monday, the nine asked that the steering committee be given another chance to review the final version and if not, it would be clear that the original objectives of the BESE update would not be achieved and that the committee did not approve the final product. .
He said the benchmarks do not include the information necessary for students to get a more consistent version of history, better prepare elementary students for secondary and post-secondary work, and ensure historical perspectives from a wide range of horizons.
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“We understand that revising social studies standards during this highly contentious political moment in our history is complicated,” according to the email sent to Brumley and the 11 BESE members.
“However, it’s during these times that following a predetermined procedure designed by the Louisiana Department of Education becomes all the more important,” he says.
Brumley and BESE President Jim Garvey disputed the criticism.
“I’m proud of our process,” Brumley said, noting that the changes were approved by BESE without a “no” vote.
The nine dissenters were particularly infuriated by accusations 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 this criticism during a fiery five-hour meeting last June, including accusations that white students felt guilty and that the initial draft standards produced too gloomy a view of Louisiana and the nation’s history.
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Weeks later, Brumley said public hearings on the matter would be delayed for two months, and he tried to defuse one of the major controversies.
“I don’t think critical race theory should be taught in K-12 education,” Brumley said at the time, and he later repeated that view.
Some state lawmakers and others who were initially critical of the process welcomed the department’s revisions and later endorsed the standards.
Jura said critical race theory — what it means elicits arguments — has never been on the focus of the task forces.
“I read some of the public comments that incorrectly assessed CRT was included,” he said.
“But the comments themselves are directly attributable to special interest groups out of state,” Jura added. “These are literally copy-and-paste works from websites. In fact, they are not based on fact.”
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Jura said one of the casualties of the department’s reviews was an account of how people of color in Louisiana played a significant role in the American Revolution and the Battle of New Orleans.
“And the new standards don’t even take into account their place in the history of Louisiana and the nation,” he said. “It’s obvious.”
Asked about the criticism, Brumley said on Tuesday that the steering committee’s recommendations had established a basis for ministry officials to work from and which had generated about 1,500 public comments.
Garvey noted that the standards have gone through multiple revisions.
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“I think they did their job,” he said of the steering committee members. “I think they were used correctly.”
Justin Winder, one of three students on the committee and one of the dissenters, said the panel worked for four months to come up with better standards.
“And then a year later we heard they wanted to do it their own way and not as diverse as we had anticipated,” said Winder, a junior from Ponchatoula High School.