Louisiana halts review of social studies standards after squabble over race relations issue

Published 10:08 pm Saturday, July 24, 2021

A routine update of Louisiana’s social studies standards for K-12 public schools has been delayed amid criticism the proposed benchmarks would paint an overly negative picture of America on race relations and other issues.

State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley told The Advocate that because of the heavy feedback sparked by the review, he is pushing back the next public hearing of a 27-member committee overseeing the standards rewrite from July 31 to Sept. 25.

“It is sensitive,” Brumley said. “This is politically combustible.”

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Republican Rep. Ray Garofalo, the former chairman of the House Education Committee, and other conservatives are complaining the proposed benchmarks being considered as part of the standards rewrite would advance a bleak view of the nation’s past.

“There is no reason to make students feel guilty,” Garofalo said during a five-hour June 26 hearing on the standards. He added: “We should teach the good things about this country.”

Others said the proposed standards for public school classrooms would inject critical race theory — an examination of the ways in which race and racism have influenced politics, culture, government systems and laws — into public school classrooms.

Critics did not cite specific passages in the proposed revisions that caused their objections. Work groups for elementary, middle and high school students are going through multiple drafts of the revisions.

Louisiana’s public school course standards are supposed to be updated every seven years, but the social studies review already was several years later than scheduled. Brumley said the current process began in December. The review committee will make recommendations to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which has the final say on the standards.

Garofalo became embroiled in controversy after he offered a bill that would have limited how teachers could have presented issues of racism and sexism in classrooms. Garofalo was ousted from his committee chairmanship because of his handling of the legislation.