Often, when something controversial happens, reporters will go out and find random, nobody accounts to say “Look, there is outrage over this!” In truth, the “controversial” thing isn’t really controversial, but people need the outrage clicks in order to survive.
So, when I say “They want the New York Times‘ 1619 Project to become a curriculum,” I want you to know right off that I didn’t just find a couple of nobody accounts.
The “1619 Project,” if you hadn’t heard, is a special issue of New York Times Magazine that focuses on America’s history with slavery. Virtually every piece is fraught with historical inaccuracies and is clearly stated by the Times itself that it is meant to be a “reframing” of American history. The essays within are written not by historians, but opinion writers who specialize in racial grievance.
It is one thing to say that America has struggled with (and, yes, it does continue to struggle with) racial issues. It is quite another to say that essentially every core moment of American history is defined by its compulsion to keep slavery in some form or another protected. It is not only wrong to say this, as the essayists in the 1619 Project do frequently, but flatly ignorant of the actual truths of American history.
Many conservatives raised concerns over historical inaccuracies, and naturally progressives took it as a sign that we felt “threatened” by the “truth” – another falsehood of many regarding the project. In fact, it isn’t that we consider it a threat, but a fear of what will inevitably be taught to our children. It’s not a fear of the truth, either, because there is so very little of that in the theses presented in the project.
If you think we’re concerned about “indoctrination,” though… well, that’s actually what it is. We can pretty easily tell that’s what it is because people who have influence and clout are calling for it to essentially become a curriculum taught in American schools.
No, not some nobody accounts with seven followers and a video game character for a profile picture. Real people who, upon reflection, you would totally expect to call for something like this.
Folks like Deray.
The #1619Project should be required reading in every high school.
— deray (@deray) August 18, 2019
The leading essayist, Nikole Hannah Jones, and the Pulitzer Center.
The @pulitzercenter has produced an entire school curriculum that educators can download and use for free so that perhaps, we do not have to reteach this history in the future because we have taught it to our children right in the first place.https://t.co/Da3SvjhOPo
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) August 19, 2019
Public speaker and activist Brittany Packnett.
Teachers: make #1619Project your next unit plan.
Managers: make #1619Project your next team retreat pre-work.
Pastors: make #1619Project your next sermon.
Parents: make #1619project your next dinner table conversation.
True history. Finally.
Thank you forever, @nhannahjones.
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) August 19, 2019
The Southern Poverty Law Center-founded organization, Teaching Tolerance.
“The 1619 Project challenges us to reframe U.S. history by marking the year when the first enslaved Africans arrived on Virginia soil as our nation's foundational date.” Teach this critical history with resources from @pulitzercenter. #1619Project @nytimes https://t.co/96B0lypF1M
— Teaching Tolerance (@Tolerance_org) August 19, 2019
It’s not difficult to search for actual people with real influence calling for an upending of how history is taught. It is, however, worrisome that there is so much push to make something so historically inaccurate the basis for teaching U.S. History.
To assume the things that are assumed by the New York Times, you have to ignore actual evidence. You have to ignore the work of the Founding Fathers. You have to ignore the colonies that existed before the first slave ship arrived in American. You have to ignore the strides America has taken.
Are we perfect when it comes to the treatment of black people in America? Of course not. Are we doing better than we were during the era of Jim Crowe? Objectively yes.
It is not hard to teach U.S. History and be inclusive and acknowledging the horrible mistakes of the past. I know this because I teach the subject. It is an unavoidable topic when you talk about it, from the Revolution to the Civil War to Reconstruction. You can’t breathe easier after that, because you still have the working conditions of black workers during the Progressive Era, the attempts to segregate federal workers by Woodrow Wilson, and the entire Civil Rights era.
And even today, you can’t talk about modern history without gesturing broadly at the last couple of decades.
But, you can’t do it justice by teaching the 1619 Project as a curriculum to students. You are teaching them false information and you are telling them that it is okay to ham-fistedly force evidence to fit a pre-conceived thesis, rather than use evidence to help you develop a thesis. The former is what every essayist in the 1619 Project did. They had this idea that America is bad and terrible and everything that supposedly makes it good is built on slavery. In reality, slavery was a major part of the problems of America, but it isn’t still propping up American capitalism, just like it never really was during the days of the British colonies in the Americas.
You cannot allow flawed theses to become a curriculum. You can’t base a curriculum on opinion writers and reporters. They aren’t historians. They don’t spend their whole lives focusing on history. They use what other people have researched and written about history to draw conclusions and try to convince you that they are right.
The best curricula lay out the facts and encourage students to form their own opinions, and use evidence to form those opinions rather than force evidence to fit their opinions. The 1691 Project fails in this regard as much as it fails at being a historically-accurate project. The New York Times should be ashamed of the final project, but we all know that stirring up racial grievance is, in fact, the goal of the paper.
After all, they said as much themselves…