House and Senate Republicans introduced bills on Monday that would bar federal funds from being used to teach The New York Times’ “1619 Project.”
The measures are unlikely to pass the Democratic-run Congress, but the bills reflect mounting opposition to efforts to form school curriculums with the newspaper series, which reframed U.S. history with a focus on slavery and racism as the defining characteristic of the American experience.
“Activists in schools want to teach our kids to hate America and hate each other using discredited, Critical Race Theory curricula like the 1619 Project. Federal funds should not pay for activists to masquerade as teachers and indoctrinate our youth,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, the bill’s main sponsor in the Senate.
“High-quality civics education is vital to the health of our democracy,” added Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and another sponsor of the bill. “Debunked activist propaganda that seeks to divide has no place in American classrooms and no right to taxpayer funding.”
Republican Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and Rick Allen of Georgia introduced the companion bill in the House.
“Critical Race Theory is dangerous, anti-American, and has no place in our nation’s schools. School curriculum plays a critical role in a child’s development and greatly influences the type of adult they will become. Children shouldn’t be taught that they will be treated differently or will be racist because of their skin color,” Mr. Buck said.
Under the bills, the Education Department would be required to calculate the amount a school spent to teach about the project. It would then subtract that amount from the federal funding the school receives. Federal funding for school lunches and to teach students with disabilities would be protected.
“The true date of America’s founding is July 4, 1776, the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress,” the bills also assert. “The self-evident truths set forth by that Declaration are the fundamental principles upon which America was founded.”
The series, though winning a Pulitzer Prize, has been criticized for its historic inaccuracies and viewpoint that America is intrinsically racist.
The “1619 Project” claimed, among other things, that a motivation of some of the Founding Fathers to fight the American Revolution was to preserve slavery. The project also argued that the year of America’s beginning should not be considered 1776 but 1619 when the slave trade arrived in the colonies.
It also spurred thousands to write the Education Department in opposition to proposed federal grants to encourage schools to teach more about the role of slavery and racism in the nation’s history.
While the proposed grants would not require teaching the “1619 Project,” the department mentioned the series as an example of what it would like to see schools do.
“There is growing acknowledgment of the importance of including, in the teaching and learning of our country’s history, both the consequences of slavery and the significant contributions of Black Americans to our society,” the department’s proposal said. Proponents of the newspaper series, including the National Education Association, said it would enhance the teaching of American history.
The conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, however, applauded the Republican bills. “Teaching the ‘1619 Project’ in public schools is state-funded racism, plain and simple,” said Thomas Lindsay, the group’s distinguished senior fellow. “It is a fiction-based attempt at revisionist history intended to indoctrinate future generations with radical leftwing propaganda.”
• Kery Murakami can be reached at email@example.com.
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