“Woke” K-12 educators want to change school curriculum so more “identities” are represented. But they don’t want to remind students of their shared identity as Americans—this might suggest there is something redeeming about their country. “Oppressive” fits the narrative better.
Enter Louisiana Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley. Brumley had the audacity to lead a rewrite of the state’s social studies standards and include ideas such as “fairness, responsibility, respect, and hard work.” Today, though, unless school content includes critical race theory’s ideas of intersectional oppression, identity politics, and systems of power, the material is a non-starter for the progressive academic crowd.
And this is a shame. Louisiana’s new standards introduce young people to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr., while also helping students understand cause and effect. Kindergarteners are taught “the importance of rules and how they help protect our liberties.”
These ideas are important as elementary school students move on to consider primary sources from America’s Founders, including diaries and letters, which contain nuance about individuals’ intentions. Our Founding Fathers had ideas that reshaped history while also wrestled for too long with policies that would afford the same rights to everyone—heady concepts that Louisiana’s standards introduce to students, especially in 6th grade.
By 7th grade, students are asked to consider the role of Native Americans in pivotal events such as the War of 1812 and the policies that forced them to move to different parts of the country. Students are exposed to lessons on slavery, the Civil War, the Reconstruction and more, all before they enter high school.
By the time students are ready to graduate, they must be able to “explain how slavery is the antithesis of freedom” and that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dredd Scott decision was a “self-inflicted” wound in efforts to create equality under the law.
Yet the standards are not just an exercise in unpacking the oppression of specific people groups. Brumley has rejected critical race theory’s obsession with racial and power dynamics as history's primary drivers. He explains that the new standards “reflect the totality of the events that have made America a truly exceptional nation and serve as a freedom framework for our children to learn about how Americans have always strived for liberty.” America’s unique role in 20th century global politics and the World Wars also make up important sections of the high school standards. A small but vocal number of the working group that helped create the standards wants nothing of this. One member of this commission who “disavowed” the final product argued that “the new benchmarks are less progressive than those in Mississippi.”
It appears that radical educators in Louisiana have a singular message based on critical race theory that they want to teach students. The Orleans Parish school board adopted a resolution that called this nation “an unjust systemic racist America (sic).” The East Baton Rouge School Board says they need to actively interrupt systemic racism.
Brumley’s objective of establishing what he calls a “Freedom Framework” that is meant to explain “America’s founding principles and our country’s continuous effort to become a more perfect union” is a refreshing contrast.
Meanwhile, radical educators are looking for LGTBQ-themed books with “nonbinary” characters. It is also not enough to study women who contributed to freedom in American history. To find space in a curriculum, women must be non-white, too. Gender queer would help. Only this will satisfy the czars of critical pedagogy.
The critics of Louisiana’s new standards are merely objecting to any ideas that do not conform to their political and cultural orthodoxy. Even a fair analysis of America’s past that recognizes failures and achievements is not enough. To them, if America’s guiding ideals are not condemned, the textbooks will be incomplete.
Here’s to the policymakers and educators like Brumley who can see straight through this twisted new dogma.
This piece originally appeared in The Chalkboard Review