We freely admit our prejudices: America is a great nation. Its story is one of growing freedom and prosperity.
The ideal of liberty that is at the core of America’s greatness is a gift to all the nations.
And this belief is why we are bewildered by those who want to gin up a controversy over teaching the facts about the nation’s story, as well as Louisiana’s role in this ongoing drama, both before statehood and after.
The outline of the social studies facts that Louisiana elementary and high school students should know is again delayed, for public comment. We like public comment but not when it becomes a political dodge, because of criticism of a purposeful and intellectually honest inquiry.
Social studies standards were last updated in 2011 and are overdue for an update. Professional educators like state Superintendent Cade Brumley, who taught the subject, believe updated standards and a more systematic approach are needed in schools.
We agree. And like the Council for a Better Louisiana, we believe Louisiana has “a very strong and transparent process.” The steering committee is diverse and includes representatives of higher, education, parents, students and community members.
Meetings are open and drafts under consideration are public records.
So why any delay? CABL put it diplomatically: “These are politically charged times when it comes to adult discussions about civics, democracy, freedom, and justice, so developing social studies standards for young people can be all the more sensitive.”
We translate this to mean that the process is under fire from political partisans who see an issue like that which motivated Republican voters to turn out in droves during the recent Virginia elections, or have been embroiled in other controversies here and around the country.
And for what is worth, which is not much in a conservative state like Louisiana, there are ultra-liberals in the academy who may well want history lessons that disparage the Founding Fathers — even that phrase can inspire verbal fisticuffs, it seems — and want stories of oppression to replace America’s largely inspiring story of progress.
Where is the sensible center? For CABL, it endorses the process undertaken under the auspices of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
We agree, but we also note that BESE members — mostly elected — are political animals, too. As citizens, we ought to encourage them to press on with new social studies standards, whether they are assailed by the right or the left, with a commitment to intellectual honesty.
That means not only that America’s inspiring stories be told honestly but that we acknowledge our beloved country’s numerous shortcomings in the past and today. That means not stressing out over things like the political slogan “critical race theory,” not taught in elementary and high schools, but which has been so distorted in the Virginia debate and elsewhere.
Nor does it mean that slavery is 70% of America’s story and great men like Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts and others should be despised or derided. History was once called ideology cast back upon the past, and there is more than a touch of that kind of distortion in today’s debate over the American past.
In this kind of debate, and amid much educationese in the draft standards, let the sensible center of Louisiana speak up for honest and more effective ways to understand our past and to make our students better citizens and critical thinkers.