Biden Administration’s Proposed Rule Props Up ‘1619 Project’ as Model for K-12 American History and Civics

CIRCA MID 1930's: Slaves work the fields during a recreation of pre Civil War life on a plantation circa mid 1930's in the deep south. (Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)
Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

The Biden education department proposed a rule Monday urging the development of “culturally responsive teaching” in American History and Civics and holding up the widely discredited New York Times’ “1619 Project” as a model for schools to teach children the United States is fundamentally a racist nation.

The U.S. Education Department states the proposed rule is in keeping with President Joe Biden’s executive order titled “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”

“[T]here is growing acknowledgement [SIC] 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 education department states in providing background for the proposed rule. “This acknowledgement [SIC] is reflected, for example, in the New York Times‘ landmark ‘1619 Project’ and in the resources of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History.”

The education department elaborated on its proposal, citing the work of Critical Race Theory proponent Ibram X. Kendi, author of Antiracist Baby:

Accordingly, schools across the country are working to incorporate anti-racist practices into teaching and learning. As the scholar Ibram X. Kendi has expressed, “[a]n antiracist idea is any idea that suggests the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences—that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group. Antiracist ideas argue that racist policies are the cause of racial inequities.” … It is critical that the teaching of American history and civics creates learning experiences that validate and reflect the diversity, identities, histories, contributions, and experiences of all students.

Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at Ethics and Public Policy Center, explained Monday to National Review the radical nature of the proposed rule:

In an early but revelatory move, President Biden’s Department of Education has signaled its intent to impose the most radical forms of Critical Race Theory on America’s schools, very much including the 1619 Project and the so-called anti-racism of Ibram X. Kendi. (Kendi’s “anti-racism” — which advocates a massive and indefinite expansion of reverse discrimination — is more like neo-racism.) Biden is obviously co-opting conservatives’ interest in reviving traditional U.S. history and civics to deliver its perfect opposite — federal imposition of the very ideas conservatives aim to combat.

Kurtz urged states to pass legislation that bars such “action civics” curricula and Critical Race Theory from K-12 schools and teacher instruction.

In March, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) said Critical Race Theory-based civics programs will be excluded from Florida’s new civics education curriculum.

“Florida civics curriculum will incorporate foundational concepts with the best materials, and it will expressly exclude unsanctioned narratives like critical race theory and other unsubstantiated theories,” DeSantis said.

The education department’s proposed rule would establish priorities for grants in American History and Civics Education programs that incorporate Critical Race Theory-based curricula, such as the “1619 Project.”

Kurtz warned this move is only a first step toward a fundamental change in the teaching of American History and Civics in K-12 schools.

“Once in place, however, those criteria will undoubtedly influence the much larger and vastly more dangerous ‘Civics Secures Democracy Act,’” he noted, explaining:

That bill would appropriate $1 billion a year, for six years, for history and civic education. Support for leftist “action civics” is already written into the priority criteria of the bill itself. I have argued that additional anodyne-sounding priority criteria in the Civics Secures Democracy Act — criteria favoring grants targeted to “underserved” populations and the mitigation of various racial, ethnic, and linguistic achievement gaps — would be interpreted by the Biden administration as a green light to fund Critical Race Theory in the schools. The new draft federal rule for grant priority in American history and civics education makes it clear that this is indeed the Biden administration’s intent.

Kurtz asserted the Civics Secures Democracy Act “must be stopped,” observing the political dynamics are much the same as over a decade ago when the Obama administration spearheaded the Common Core State Standards.

“Just as a combination of Obama’s Race to the Top grant program and federal regulations managed to impose the abysmal Common Core standards in math and English on nearly every state, the Civics Secures Democracy Act is designed to impose leftist action civics and Critical Race Theory on even red states,” he warned.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Times journalist who led the “1619 Project,” was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her project even though, following criticism from noted historians, the newspaper ultimately scrapped the project’s central theme that the true founding of America was 1619, the year the first slaves were brought to the colonies.

Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said in September, the “1619 Project” is “one of the most significant attempts to propagandize history” he has seen in his lifetime.

This is “an all-hands-on-deck situation,” he warned during a National Association of Scholars web conference.

“We have seen what I believe to be a corruption of history, a distortion of history,” he asserted, adding that Hannah-Jones “is using the tools of a 20th-century form of oppression, to consciously, or not, present her version of, and that of many on the left’s, version of slavery in the United States.”

“And it is nothing more than sheer propaganda,” Kirsanow emphasized.

Former President Donald Trump referred to the “1619 Project” in September as “revisionist history,” and asserted curricula based on the project should be banned. He instead established the 1776 Commission to underscore that year as marking the true founding of America.

In January, however, Biden said he was abolishing Trump’s 1776 Commission, calling it “offensive” and “counterfactual.”

During his remarks on his racial equity agenda, Biden said:

Look, in the weeks ahead. I’ll be reaffirming the federal government’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and accessibility, building on the work we started in the Obama-Biden administration. That’s why I’m rescinding the previous administration’s harmful ban on diversity and sensitivity training and abolish the offensive counterfactual 1776 commission. Unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance, and lies.

The public comment period on the proposed rule will close May 19.

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