Proponents and opponents of critical race theory have views at the hearing
Critics and supporters had their voices heard at a Friday hearing at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum on the state’s proposed new social studies standards that critics say incorporate critical race theory. .
Opponents of the new standards say they will add critical race theory to what students learn. This doctrine teaches that race is a social construct and that racism is embedded in the nation’s legal systems and policies.
The Mississippi Department of Education has put the project cash on the Secretary of State’s website on December 16, as required by the State Administrative Procedures Act. There was no hearing originally scheduled on the matter, but enough requests from concerned citizens compelled the MOE to hold a hearing under the law.
Sixty-six speakers (not all of whom showed up) registered for three minutes in front of the near-full crowd at Sparkman Auditorium.
A subject of controversy was the group – the National Council for Social Studies – which provided some of the main sources for the new social studies standards. On its website, this nonprofit advocacy group supports the teaching of critical race theory and other leftist perspectives on history and social studies topics.
Some supported the changes to the social studies standards.
“How can a student really learn to solve problems without knowing our past problems?” said former teacher Kathy Bryant. “We can’t heal as a nation if we don’t cover these things that happened in the past.”
She also said citizenship education and social justice education should be integrated into the curriculum to teach students how to be productive citizens.
Many critics who spoke on Friday were particularly distressed that students would learn that the nation’s founding documents, the United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence, were no longer important and were relics of an earlier and less enlightened time.
“Over the past two decades I have studied education and observed the results of No Child Left Behind (Federal Education Act passed in 2001), Common Core and Now Proposed Standards that there is an indoctrination slow, methodical and subversive of children to view our founding documents as outdated and less enlightened when held to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Michael Mitchell, a Ridgeland native and former county teacher of Shelby, Tennessee.
He said the standards represented a 70-year socialist attempt to override the sovereignty of the US Constitution. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is part of the United States history standards in 6th grade and high school.
The author of a bill that would ban the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools and public universities and community colleges across the state also spoke at the hearing. State Senator Michael McClendon, R-Hernando, is the author of Senate Bill 2113, a bill that was passed on a 32-2 votes after black senators walked out in protest ahead of the vote.
The bill, which was sent to the House, prohibits teaching that any gender, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior or that individuals should be treated unfavorably based on those same criteria.
“If you don’t believe the state is thinking about it, just go over there and look at the different car tags here in the parking lot,” McClendon said. “We are not changing history. We’re not saying we can’t teach what Mississippi history has been. The only way to grow in the future is to tell our children that this is where we were and this is where we are going.
Not all criticism of the standards was based on racial issues.
Brian McMurray, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 903 in Gulfport, told the state Board of Education that the omission of unions’ impact on history and opportunities for young people to become apprentices for a lucrative trade could eventually turn them into what could be a career that will change your life.