Bill Backed By House to Teach About Holocaust and WWII in High Schools

June 01 00:31 2021 Print This Article

Louisiana State has approved, Monday night, a bill that could see Holocaust and World War II taught as part of the curriculum in high school. However, the house could not add to the list of black historical figures as part of what is to be taught in the lessons. The changes were proposed to the bill by Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge but flopped 44-52.

Following the passing of this bill, teachers are to be trained in instructing students on such history issues. Schools will also be partnering with the National WWII Museum in New Orleans to teach the curriculum. Hodges said that the house and educators needed to share the Holocaust stories because the survivors would no longer soon be around to share the stories with the students.

The sponsor of the bill Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs said a change was needed to help students understand the Jewish persecutions by Germans, which led to the killings of six million Jews. She said students should be taught about these subjects over four years instead of the current one semester.

This would make students understand well what the holocaust was before they graduate from school.

She said that it was worthy for students to learn and understand the sacrifices made by the country’s forefathers against the attempted global domination of the Third Reich. She added that the Holocaust would teach students how the nation depended on citizens to stand up against forces of division and hate.

The bill was supported by, among others, history and civics teacher Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall. He said that his son who completed LSU with a 3.8 GPA was not clear of his job as a legislator, and this needed to change. The bill won 66-32.

Hodges however said that she was not familiar with the events of hauling millions of slaves from West Africa that led to the death of millions of people. She was questioned by Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, among others about these events.

Hodges is also sponsoring House Bill 352 that will dictate topics to be administered to students under American history and civics. The house will debate this measure on Wednesday.

Amendments rejected

The proposed amendment sparked controversy in the house. James said that the black historical figures deserved more attention and hence needed their addition to the list. The amendment would see the addition of Homer Plessy who was involved in the famous “separate but equal” U. S. Supreme Court ruling.

It started the process that ended racial segregation. Others that he needed to be added are Bayard Rustin, a civil rights leader, and Clayton Powell, a former congressman.

The amendments were opposed by Hodges who said the bill intended to keep the focus on suffering Jews.

Another amendment requiring the attention of the history of women’s suffrage was also rejected. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa who also informed the house of the male dominance in the house. This amendment also failed 44-47.

Other amendments rejected included those requiring students to be taught about Japanese internment camps or “significant figures in Black history.”

Opponents of the bill like Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge said the legislature was in the wrong trying to dictate curriculum. He said this was a job for those in the education department.

Duplessis said that key parts of black history were being ignored. He added that his earlier attempt to have BESE add African American history courses into the curriculum had been shot down. Hence, he said it was best to leave BESE to mandate subjects; otherwise, the house should not mandate one subject matter over another.

Ethan Melancon, the director of government affairs at the Louisiana Department of Education had also indicated, in an interview last month, that BESE opposed the bill. He said the board created constitutionally to set the curriculum should be left to do their work. Further, a commission was set up to review standards of state social studies.

It will pass its recommendations to BESE, which would see the new standards adopted. These standards would stand for the next seven years.

Since it was BESE’s duty to set the curriculum, Rep. Tammy Phelps (D-Shreveport) said that the legislatures should “remember this day” if every legislature would later come up with their suggestions on how the curriculum should be like despite BESE work.

However, Hodges argued that waiting for the committee to set the new standards would be too late, and therefore her bill was timely. In response to Rep. Beryl Amedee’s of R-Houma, concern that BESE should in the right organ to direct curriculum, Hodges said the legislature had directed on curriculum 37 times in the past.

Against Garofalo bill

The bill came after efforts by an earlier bill proposed by Rep. Ray Garofalo (R-Chalmette) to prevent Louisiana schools from teaching that the United States or the state of Louisiana is systematically racist or sexist. It will also outlaw the teachings that it is racist or sexist to work for a private party for wages as is free market and capitalist concepts.

It also seeks to outlaw teaching racial and gender equity over racial and gender equality.

In addition to the failure of the Garofalo bill, the Black Caucus asked House Speaker Clay Schexnayder to remove Garofalo as head of the House Education Committee. He was removed. The speaker told the house that he stepped down and yet he said he was forced out.

Differences between Black Caucus and Garofalo

Garofalo earlier complained that the Black Caucus seemed to control the house and had succeeded in holding up the Schexnayder’s tax reform bills. The claims about the house being controlled by the Black Caucus were denied by James who said that if this is so, there would be “more stuff done.”

Rep. Tammy Phelps (D-Shreveport) said that the fight between the Black Caucus and Garofalo was to blame for the controversial debate in the house about the bill. He denied that the Black Caucus was involved in the removal of Garofalo as head of the House Education Committee saying it had nothing to do with the change in leadership.

He also argued that the amendments would have remained if the house was serious about students being taught historical events.

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