Third-party education organizations have played an increasingly strong influence on the direction being taken by the Mississippi Department of Education. Despite the fact that many parents in the state are concerned about the direction of the education system toward Critical Race Theory, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) recently announced that it will be revising its social studies curriculum based on standards established by such questionable organizations.
Recent debates surrounding Critical Race Theory, American heritage, and government education have highlighted how third-party education organizations on the national level often have a large degree of undue influence on the education curriculum in Mississippi. The Mississippi Center for Public Policy has long sounded the alarm on such organizations, including in an extensive report on the influence of Critical Race Theory in Mississippi. The report uncovered that while MDE has not overtly taught CRT, there has been a prevalence of MDE promoting resources from organizations that openly embrace CRT. A recent article from Yall Politics further demonstrated that much of the proposed changes to the state social studies curriculum are directly based upon the recommendations of such organizations.
The key problem with MDE utilizing the resources of such third-party organizations is that they often have an agenda that is far removed from the priorities of Mississippi parents. There are several key examples of such organizations holding an undue sway on Mississippi education.
For instance, MCPP’s CRT report provides documentation of MDE promoting the Zinn Education Project as a third-party teaching resource provider. Among other things, Zinn’s resources include activities that give a portrayal of Christopher Columbus as a murderer and resources on how to teach mathematics using social justice and intersectionality.
In addition, MDE has also implemented Social Emotional Learning (SEL) standards. While such concepts may seem benign at first glance, the standards include initiatives such as an “Equity Monitor” staffed with the task of ensuring school meetings are perceived through the lens of race and gender. Such standards are based upon the recommendations of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). With numerous references to the racial undertones of many of its SEL standards, the CASEL organization includes resources such as a racial relations document that proclaims: “systemic racism is so deeply rooted in our history, culture and institutions that there’s no escaping it.”
Finally, MDE has fundamentally based its social studies curriculum on the standards established by several national organizations, including National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). NCSS has several events and resources with CRT implications, such as “The Historical Roots of Structural Racism” and “Black History is Not American History: Toward a Framework of Black Historical Consciousness.” Such resources include statements such as “we should not debate whether systemic racism exists, but provide opportunities for students, precluding racist commentary, to analyze the data evidence and establish this conclusion on their own.” Thus, rather than fostering a culture of academic analysis and dialogue, the NCSS has made its intentions to present a singular perspective quite clear. In light of such statements from the organization, it is unclear why the MDE is collaborating with it to establish social studies standards.
The national education establishment has a long track record of placing leftist agendas at the forefront of its priorities. Rather than importing such agendas into the Mississippi education system, there should be a proactive effort to consciously reject ideologies that place an undue emphasis on students’ immutable characteristics. Instead of a bureaucratic and top-down approach, Mississippi’s government education system needs more accountability so that it is informed by the citizenry and not the education establishment of the Left.