OWEN: Louisiana Scores A Nice Win With Social Studies Redo

This letter is offered as a response to the article in EdWeek on the 10th of March regarding the Social Studies Content Standards that were recently adopted for the State of Louisiana by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).   I offer up this letter as firsthand knowledge of what is actually in the standards and to politely and resolutely stand in support of the effort that just concluded on behalf of public education in Louisiana.

Some of the quotes and notions offered in the article are breath-taking and a little puzzling.   I say this because I have the benefit and framework as someone who read every initial, draft and finalized set of standards that were processed by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and approved by BESE.  I took time to read it all and paid very careful attention.

I am a State legislator.   I represent the 30th District of Louisiana—primarily the cities of DeRidder, Leesville, and towns of Rosepine and New Llano.  I am also the son, husband and father of educators.   I hold credentials to teach at the high school level and am currently an adjunct faculty member for three private Christian universities and for the Department of Defense.   I pay careful attention to the world of education and I sit on the Louisiana House Committee on Education.  I’m retired honorably from the United States Air Force where I served as an intelligence officer for 20 years.  I had four wartime deployments and my rank at retirement was lieutenant colonel.

The standards adopted by BESE on the 9th of March are strong and they are balanced.    I say this without equivocation and without doubt.  I say it with knowledge of what actually exists in the document.    For those unfamiliar, this “document” or set of standards will now be used to create the curriculums that local school districts will adopt.

The broad topic of Social Studies includes US, world and Louisiana history, civics and geography.  The recently adopted standards for Kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) provide an objective, unbiased, and accurate framework from which great curriculums can be built.    I mention “balance” because I paid careful attention to what was being created throughout the process of the work of the Steering Committee and then what was finalized after the LDOE utilized and considered, as directed by BESE, public feedback submitted through the online portal.   These standards relay the history of our republic, our state, of western civilization and largely our world.   The actual framework of how our country was formed is presented.    The truth of the good and the bad in our country, the tough times and the victories, the horrible moments and the moments of recovery are offered up in a clinical and objective fashion.

I said the following to BESE (paraphrased): “When I see the Tuskegee Experiment and the Tuskegee Airmen in the same document, I see balance. When I see the Middle Passage and the Oregon Trail, I see balance. When I see Patrick Henry and Emmitt Till, I see balance. When I see the Trail of Tears and the Navajo Code Talkers, I see balance.   When I see the Holocaust, the Russian Holodomor and the Rape of Nanjing, I see balance.”   I had a litany of things to mention, but in the interest of time, I narrowed down my comments.  I had in my notes to say “when I see the massacres at Colfax and Opelousas and the election of Barack Obama, I see balance. When I see Woodrow Wilson’s Sedition Act, Ronald Reagan, the Neutral Strip and the Louisiana Maneuvers, I see important things in our history that need to be taught and learned.”

I could have gone on for an hour extolling the excellence of these standards.

If time had permitted, I wanted to brag to BESE about what the LDOE, the committee and the public had helped create.   Time didn’t permit, so I’ll offer up some examples here.   The set of standards from 2011 that are being replaced mentioned the word “Liberty” one time.  The new ones mention it 26 times.   The 2011 standards mentioned the term “Civil Rights” 3 times.   The ones adopted on the 9th of March offer up that phrase 33 times.    The word “suffrage” was not used in the 2011 document, but it now appears 5 times.   The words “slave/slavery/enslaved” appeared 4 times in 2011, and they appear now 28 times.   I could go on and on and on regarding how good these standards are right at this moment.

So, for anyone who wants to know what is in line to appear in the schools around our state, I encourage you to go and look for yourself.   The information is public, as it has been since the beginning.    The inputs from the “small but well organized” groups of people who provided inputs are all easily discoverable and analyzed.   I challenge anyone who has a concern with what our BESE approved to take time and look, and try to find things of importance that are missing.   I bet they’ll listen.

These standards will educate our children on the history of our nation—the truth, sometimes ugly and sometimes inspiring, but always objective and factual.  Superintendent Dr. Cade Brumley has referred to these standards as a “Freedom Framework” and has stated that these standards emphasize our great nation’s continuous pursuit of freedom and liberty.   The standards provide facts on how  our government works—which is a source of confusion for many who have not been taught about core principles like federalism, individual liberty, inalienable rights, civil rights and personal property rights.     These standards, I am convinced, will vault Louisiana to the top in the nation once codified and once curriculums are created.

I am thankful and grateful for the hard work of all involved in the drafting, editing, and codification of Social Studies Content Standards for the State of Louisiana.

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