Critical race theory controversy hangs over new Louisiana social studies standards
The controversy over critical race theory pushed its way into a Louisiana House Education Committee hearing Monday about establishing the state's next social studies standards for its 700,000 K-12 students.
Members of the public who testified after the Louisiana Department of Education's presentation warned against teaching about systemic racism in America, known as critical race theory.
Former teacher Dianne Moore said new standards could be "designed in a way to make students ashamed of their history" and quash any patriotic feelings about America.
Others testified that critical race theory promotes division, while Laura Huber of Concerned Women for America said the new standards should resist the influence of "political education elites."
Louisiana education experts have crafted proposed new standards for social studies — history, civics, geography and economics — that will be presented to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in January.
Before then, though, the public can provide input on the standards through November through a portal on the Louisiana Department of Education website at https://www.louisianabelieves.com/.
Once approved, implementation of the new standards won't begin until the 2023-24 school year.
State Schools Superintendent Cade Brumley said the public's input will help craft the final proposed standards presented to the state school board.
Brumley never mentioned critical race theory during his presentation, Instead of focusing on teaching history "in a more coherent way ... rather than the choppiness of the story of our history" currently being taught.
For example, U.S. history is currently taught in seventh grade, followed by Louisiana history in eighth grade and jumping back to American history in high school.
"It feels like we're really hopping from one topic to the next over the years," assistant state Superintendent Jenna Chiasson said.
But Brumley did call the process "hard, sensitive work that we have to get right."
Brumley said only 25% of Louisiana students achieve what's considered mastery of the subject, compared to 43% achieving mastery in English and language arts.
Louisiana's House Education Committee became a lightning rod for controversy last spring when former Chairman Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, introduced a bill to ban the teaching of critical race theory in Louisiana schools.
During debate over the bill, Garofalo indicated there may have been "good" components about slavery before quickly walking his comments back.
“If you are having a discussion on whatever the case may be, on slavery, then you can talk about everything dealing with slavery: the good, the bad, the ugly,” Garofalo said.
Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales eventually removed Garofalo from his chairmanship.
But the Louisiana Republican Party backed Garofalo's efforts and plans a series of meetings around the state beginning Oct. 18 in Baton Rouge to oppose critical race theory.
Louisiana GOP Chair Louis Gurvich said media will be banned from the events, which he said are otherwise open to the public.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.