When Holocaust Education Meets Critical Race Theory: A Partisan History Debate Unfolds In LouisianaBreaking News
tags: conservatism, culture war, teaching history, critical race theory
At first, Danny Mintz was excited to learn that lawmakers in his state, Louisiana, were considering mandating Holocaust education in public schools.
A director at a good-government group called the Louisiana Budget Project, Mintz knew that the local Jewish federation was encouraging his synagogue’s board to back the bill. In a state where a notorious Holocaust denier, David Duke, had been the Republican candidate for governor in 1991, clearly there was a need for more Holocaust education.
But Mintz had second thoughts once he began learning more about the content and the backers of the proposed legislation. Its sponsor, a Republican state representative named Valarie Hodges, had also expressed hostility toward teaching the histories of other racial and religious minorities. Some of the original bill’s language seemed to suggest that lessons on the Holocaust would be framed partially as a celebration of the American military. And during debate, the bill’s supporters would “deploy Jews rhetorically, without involving Jews,” he said.
“As a Jew, I thought to myself, who are you who’s making this argument?” Mintz told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
He soon began telling fellow board members at Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation, in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, that the bill was more complicated than it appeared.
The Shir Chadash board decided not to weigh in on the legislation. And it wasn’t alone: While the regional chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and the New Orleans Jewish Federation backed the bill, several of the state’s Jewish community leaders declined to endorse it.
Ultimately the bill died in the State Senate. Still, its short life was notable because of how it functioned as a front in the battle between right-wing white lawmakers and progressive Black lawmakers over critical race theory, an academic framework for teaching race and history that has become a target for conservatives at statehouses and school board meetings across the country.
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