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Prof Says Louisiana Students Poorly Versed

September 24, 1985

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ A Louisiana State University law professor, saying many of his students are inadequately prepared to start learning the profession, has filed suit to force state public high schools to teach the Federalist Papers.

John S. Baker Jr., of Baton Rouge, says education officials are ignoring a 1948 law that requires Louisiana high schools to est, poorly versed on the contents and significance″ of the documents, Baker said in the lawsuit, filed last week.

″I teach constitutional law and I found over the years that students know very little about the Constituiton,″ Baker said in an interview Monday night.

″I happen to be invited this year to serve on the committee to select textbooks for social studies. I was not able to do that, but in the course of looking at material ... I found this statute,″ said Baker.

″They’re strictly propaganda tracts,″ said David Hamilton, chief counsel for the Louisiana Department of Education, of the essays.

The lengthy papers were one-sided and the language archaic, Hamilton said.

But he acknowledged that the law, adopted during the patriotic fervor following World War II, does require Louisiana high schools to give a course on the papers.

The 85 essays, which were the first discussion of federal government, were written and published in newspapers under the pseudonym ″Publius″ during the late 18th century.

Baker said the Federal Papers were given only passing reference in some state-approved textbooks.

The suit was filed in state court against the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which sets education policy, and the Department of Education, which carries out that policy.

″The whole point of public education should be to develop good citizens, people who know how to participate in society,″ Baker said.

″How can people vote intelligently in elections if they don’t understand the system in which they’re participating?″

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