Critics have denounced the evils of The 1619 Project as a misdirected and biased application of “Critical Race Theory. Now, some states are rejecting attempts to imposed 1619’s adoption in their schools.
Parents and legislators are resisting the 1619 Project because it rewrites America’s history in an un-historic and biased way. They claim the project’s hidden agenda confuses students and distorts events and facts.
The Educators’ Lament
The threat of exposing the defective project is so real that the left is alarmed. Education Week, a left-wing media organ, is alerting school administrators around the nation of the threat to this pet project in its recent article, “Lawmakers Push to Ban ‘1619 Project’ From Schools.”
Its lament begins, “The school curriculum linked to the New York Times’ 1619 Project— an initiative that aims to reframe U.S. history by putting the legacy of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at its center—is once again the target of Republican lawmakers, who seek to ban the materials in three states. The three bills, recently introduced by state legislators in Arkansas, Iowa, and Mississippi, argue that the lessons misrepresent U.S. history.”
That paragraph contains several unspoken premises. First, it assumes that all historians defend it. Second, the content of the project is accurate and desirable. Third, only Republicans challenge 1619’s premises and conclusions.
Arguments Based on Falsehood
None of these premises are true.
Historians don’t defend unanimously The 1619 Project. Even the very-liberal The Atlantic was forced to admit (in an article defending 1619) that “The reaction to the project was not universally enthusiastic. Several weeks ago, the Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, who had criticized the 1619 Project’s ‘cynicism’ in a lecture in November, began quietly circulating a letter objecting to the project, and some of Hannah-Jones’s work in particular. The letter acquired four signatories—James McPherson, Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes, all leading scholars in their field.”
The accuracy of the project’s content is also contested from a historical point of view. While some liberal historians have supported its intent, no one has successfully argued that it is historically accurate. The two major organizations of American History Professors, The American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians, have released statements about The 1619 Project. Both organizations commend the effort behind 1619. Neither says that it is historically accurate.
Indeed, many scholars – including those who are not Republican officeholders – openly decry 1619. The National Association of Scholars titled one of its articles, “Why the N.Y. Times’ 1619 Project Fails the Truth Test.”
The Situation in Iowa
In light of these facts, Rep. Skylar Wheeler, a member of the Iowa House of Representatives, introduced legislationforbidding Iowa public schools from adopting 1619. He released a statement that appears in the Iowa Field Report.
“The New York Times’ 1619 Project has been shredded by historians all over the country, across political spectra and from all different races and ethnicities.
“It viciously attacks our founding in a way we have never seen. And it does so not for a conversation on history but rather to make a case for why we need to pass all the Marxist garbage the radical left is pushing around the country.
“It’s not history. It’s politics.”
A “Reality” That Contains no Truth
Local liberals came to the defense of the defective project. Todd Dorman, a staff columnist for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette, criticized Mr. Wheeler. His article carried the headline, “Iowa House Bill Would Put a Fresh Coat of Whitewash on History.” Like the headline (and 1619 itself), his analysis is long on passion and light on fact.
“Instead of banishing these lessons from classrooms, we should aspire to face the unflinching truths of our history and learn its lessons. And actually living such an aspiration should make us far prouder of our country than any star-spangled myth. We should look reality in the eye, not act like some authoritarian regime that edits history and compels patriotism.”
Such vitriol cannot mask the fact that The 1619 Project is not “unflinching truth.” Its lessons will not “make us far prouder of our country.” They are designed to have the opposite effect. Its opponents do not constitute an “authoritarian regime.” They are trying to prevent the sort of ideological intolerance that runs through the Projectitself. Indeed, 1619’s author stated that “It would be an honor” if the Antifa and BLM disturbances that occurred during the summer of 2020 were called “The 1619 Riots.”
Different Places, Similar Reactions
Reactions to the Arkansas and Mississippi attempts to keep its children safe from 1619’s racist propaganda were no less vitriolic than The Gazette’s.
Max Brantley rechristened his state in the Arkansas Times. He referred to it as “Darkensas” and equated those who want historical accuracy with the participants in the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis of 1957.
“Who wouldn’t rush to a state busily working to re-create 1957 Arkansas with legislative mandates against teaching diversity and slavery, even in college; laws encouraging school segregation through white flight transfers and other inducements; opposing hate crime legislation, and more.”
Newsbreak was slightly less sarcastic when it discussed the Mississippi proposal, made by State Senator Angela Hill.
“Political polarization in the U.S. has come to the fore once again, this time in Mississippi, with a bill introduced in the state Senate set to prevent state funds from being used by schools-both elementary and secondary-to teach the 1619 Project Curriculum. The Saving American History in Mississippi Schools Act, if passed, would require any institute which teaches from The 1619 Project curriculum to have their state funding curtailed by as much as 25 percent.”
Neither article asserted that The 1619 Project presents an accurate view of history because they can’t. All they have is leftist palaver about division, segregation, and polarization. Those who tear society apart cynically charge that their opponents are ripping the fabric.
Contributing to an Ongoing Crisis
This controversy is typical of those that surround American education today. In a sane world, accuracy would be the first and foremost goal of any history course. Most history teachers want their students to be well informed and make reasoned judgments about the material they learn.
Unfortunately, many American History teachers know little history. All too many of them have only taken two or three college-level courses in the subject that they teach. In turn, left-wing ideologues teach too many of those college-level courses.
So, when these teachers read 1619, they find material that confirms what they heard in college. The disinformation and intolerance then move on to the third and fourth generations.
Iowa, Arkansas, and Mississippi are acting nobly to defend the idea that truth should be the cornerstone of any history class. May their efforts be echoed in the other forty-seven states and send The 1619 Project to the abyss.