Rozeman: History and Civics education matters

Reading, writing, and arithmetic matter. So does history, geography, and civics. With little fanfare last week, Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), unanimously approved new K-12 education standards in history, geography, economics, and civics. Dr. Cade Brumley, Louisiana State Superintendent of Education, notes these standards teach our children to “understand their obligation as citizens to safeguard America’s founding principles”.

In creating these standards, BESE and the Louisiana Department of Education (La DOE) followed a process of intense civic involvement. Over the past year, they listened to over 2,000 public comments and involved many people in the work of research and writing teams. By the definition of the La DOE, these standards provide “a freedom framework for children to learn about how Americans have always strived for liberty”.

Our leaders in Louisiana have put the story of America in context for our children. They have taken a proactive approach to the concerns of many parents about critical race theory and other curriculum concerns in our schools.  La DOE and BESE recognize critical race theory as a discipline of division – one that promotes judging people only by race rather than by individual character, behavior, and merit.

We owe a debt of gratitude to BESE and the LA DOE for tackling a controversial issue in a proactive way.  Instead of focusing on legislating what can and can’t be said about a topic in the classroom, this positive approach to teaching history and civics puts focus on a freedom framework.  This work should be a benchmark for other states facing the same citizen concerns about curriculum.

The story of America will be communicated to this generation in Louisiana based on the principle of pursuit of freedom. Instead of evaluating competing education theories, standards have been built on the theme of Americans drawn together in seeking “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Our children will learn about the last 250 years of building, maintaining, and improving a free society. Our children will learn about both our achievements and our flaws. They will understand America’s role as an exceptional nation and as a country that seeks to learn from her mistakes.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. From the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War to the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War to the Civil Rights Act and World War II, the American journey of freedom has been one of struggle and sacrifice. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives for these ideas.  The generations before have preserved it for us at a huge cost and it is now our time to do the same for our children.

In America, reasonable people may differ; open discourse is welcome; dissent is allowed; and equal opportunity is sought. In America, power resides in the free individual; the free exercise of religion is upheld; and our rights emanate from God. This is the America I want to continue for my children and grandchildren. It is why this “freedom framework” we use to teach our children is so important to me. I believe the future of our country depends on it.

Dr. Phillip Rozeman is the founder of Alliance for Education and Education’s Next Horizon and has been honored by CABL, United Way, and Louisiana State Medical Society with their annual Distinguished Service Awards.

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