MS Department of Education Hearing Shows Deep Vulnerabilities in State Education System

Jackson, MS – The Mississippi Department of Education held a hearing Friday, Jan. 28, on its proposed changes to the state’s social studies standards. The department had suggested removing the names of critical civil rights figures – like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks – from the standards. Following public backlash, MDE has agreed to maintain those names.

Vangela M. Wade, president and CEO at the Mississippi Center for Justice, said:

“This push from MDE underscores the very real dangers facing our education system and the truthful teaching of our history. While MDE may have reversed its stance due to public backlash, the entire process has been terribly nontransparent. The hearing also did not allow the public to ask any questions and keep officials accountable. We shouldn’t be required to meticulously monitor every single suggested change to the state standards and launch a full-out opposition campaign just to protect the accurate teaching of our history.

“Of course, this isn’t the only threat to Mississippi’s education system. Some lawmakers are also trying to pass legislation that would prevent educators from teaching students about racism and key civil rights moments in our history. This is beyond dangerous. It would allow classrooms to become political battlegrounds for politicians, and prevent our students from learning the skills they need to work and collaborate with others down the road.”

Chauncey Spears, Education Policy Analyst at the Mississippi Center for Justice, said:

“We shouldn’t whitewash or obscure our history with our students. Instead, we should teach them the truth about our past – and consequently, how diversity is a strength in communities and in democracies. For instance, standard CR.3.2 requires students to ‘Examine how cultural diversity strengthens the community.’ This standard was proposed to be stricken in the document without a replacement standard that centered on the ‘strength of diversity in communities.’ Considering the segregated nature of many public classrooms and communities in Mississippi, we feel that understanding diversity is a strength is crucial to the development of empathy and helps students to appreciate civic diversity and engagement.

We also ask the MDE to seriously consider a more transparent standards development process that will allow more community representation. When we have more voices involved, our standards will better reflect the needs of our communities. It would also ensure that we can keep public officials accountable throughout the process, rather than scramble at the end to ask questions and critically consider the implications for our children.”

For more information about why we need to protect Mississippi’s education system from partisan politics, visit