Sen. Mitch McConnell Urges Biden Ed Department to Block “1619 Project” from Taxpayer-Funded Grants

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives before President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 28, 2021. (Photo by Melina Mara / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MELINA MARA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
MELINA MARA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) led 38 other Republican senators in a letter Thursday to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, calling upon him to withdraw the New York Times’ “1619 Project” from taxpayer-funded grant programs.

McConnell wrote that he and the other senators “express grave concern with the Department’s effort to reorient the bipartisan American History and Civics Education programs … away from their intended purposes toward a politicized and divisive agenda.”

The Republican leader observed that a recent survey found only 51 percent of Americans can name the three branches of federal government, while only 15 percent of America’s eighth-grade students have been found to be proficient in U.S. history.

“This is a time to strengthen the teaching of civics and American history in our schools,” the senators wrote. “Instead, your Proposed Priorities double down on divisive, radical, and historically-dubious buzzwords and propaganda.”

McConnell referred to the “1619 Project” as a “campaign to ‘reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding’ has become infamous for putting ill-informed advocacy ahead of historical accuracy.”

He added:

Actual, trained, credentialed historians with diverse political views have debunked the project’s many factual and historical errors, such as the bizarre and inaccurate notion that preserving slavery was a primary driver of the American Revolution.

“Americans do not need or want their tax dollars diverted from promoting the principles that unite our nation toward promoting radical ideologies meant to divide us,” the letter asserted.

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told CNN’s Ana Cabrera Friday he had yet to see McConnell’s letter, but added “the federal government doesn’t really have a role in the curriculum development.”

Cardona continued:

But, I have complete confidence in the educators across the country, as they develop curriculum and lessons, to ensure that we’re providing diverse perspectives in our curriculum, so students can see themselves in it, but doing it in a way that builds community in our schools. I have complete confidence the educators will get it right.

Two weeks ago, Cardona’s department proposed the rule, referred to in McConnell’s letter, urging the development of “culturally responsive teaching” in American History and Civics and holding up the widely discredited “1619 Project” as a model for schools to teach children the United States is fundamentally a racist nation.

The 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.”

The department stated the proposed rule is in keeping with Biden’s executive order titled “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” and provided the following as background for the rule:

[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. 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 department then 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.

As Breitbart News reported, Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote about the radical nature of the education department’s proposed rule at National Review:

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.

The Hill reported Friday an education department spokesperson said, “The background of the Notice of Proposed Priorities includes examples of how institutions and individuals are finally acknowledging the legacy of systemic inequities in this country and paying attention to it.”

“The Department welcomes comments on the Proposed Priorities until May 19, 2021,” the spokesperson added.

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