It was a packed auditorium on the morning of Jan. 28 at the Mississippi Agricultural Museum in Jackson. That’s where the state department of education held a public hearing on the proposed revisions to the state’s social studies standards.
Critical race theory fears cloud MDE’s social studies standards hearing
Changes to Mississippi’s social studies standards were in the works before critical race theory became a polarizing buzz word in politics, but when the Mississippi Department of Education published its proposed revisions to the standards, residents across the state responded strongly. This caused the department to schedule an open hearing, where they quickly walked back some of these revisions.
"The content examples that were initially identified to be moved from the standards to a separate instructional planning guide, those are going to be retained in the standards," MDE counsel said at the hearing.
The committee first began discussing changes in 2020. In February 2021, they started the nine-month revision process. It all led up to this hearing, where 66 registered speakers took to the podium to voice their concerns. Many people talked about critical race theory and the erasure of history from the social studies standards.
"The senate passed a bill four days ago saying no CRT is to be taught in Mississippi," Alaina Campo said at the hearing.
"This curriculum gives a lot of leeway to the teachers to interject their opinions on different topics," Brian Flowers said. Flowers is running for Congress to represent Mississippi's 2nd Congressional District.
"Teach the truth, where we celebrate our Black leaders," Dr. Ruby Funchess said.
"You’re going to let our teachers teach something that would divide us instead of unite us? Shame on y’all," Campo said excitedly to MDE while the crowd applauded at the hearing.
Lawmakers also spoke at the hearing, like Republican State Senator Michael McLendon, who authored legislation to prohibit critical race theory from being taught in public schools and colleges in Mississippi.
"Does the Mississippi Department of Education accept the concept that a child is inferior or superior to another," McLendon said. "If not, then should any curriculum, material, school district convey to students that they are inherently superior or inferior to another?"
The department says social studies standards are a guide for districts to decide what’s taught in the classroom. After the three-hour hearing was over, the department said parents should also voice their concerns about curriculum with their local school districts.