Parents across the country are revolting against activist school boards and teachers who are introducing critical race theory and propagandistic accounts of American history into classrooms.
One such history is the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which is already being taught in at least 4,000 classrooms in all 50 states.
The 1619 Project is an alternate history of the American founding that claims our nation’s true birthday was not 1776 but 1619, the year 20 slaves arrived in the British colony of Virginia. According to the 1619 Project, America was founded on racism and slavery — never mind the text of the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that all men are created equal, or the words and deeds of our Founding Fathers, many of whom deplored slavery and tried to place it on the path to ultimate extinction.
The 1619 Project avoids discussing how slavery clashed with the ideals expressed in our Declaration of Independence. Instead, it portrays our Founding Fathers as liars and frauds who did not believe the stirring words they wrote — and in fact wrote them to uphold the evils of human bondage and white supremacy.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats and liberals have lavished praise on this revisionist account of our history. The 1619 Project’s lead author, Nikole Hannah-Jones, won a Pulitzer Prize and quickly hit the lecture circuit. Then-Senator Kamala Harris quickly expressed her support, writing that “the #1619Project is a powerful and necessary reckoning of our history. We cannot understand and address the problems of today without speaking truth about how we got here.”
The response from actual historians, even many on the left, has been less favorable. The project is “so wrong in so many ways,” according to Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Gordon Wood. James McPherson, the dean of Civil War historians and a Pulitzer Prize winner himself, remarked that the project presents an “unbalanced, one-sided account” that “left most of the history out.” A history curriculum that leaves the history out? No wonder parents are upset.
Young Americans are in desperate need of history and civic education, as surveys often find that they do not know basic details about our history and system of government. The 1619 Project will not help Americans achieve greater historical literacy or a deeper appreciation of our nation’s Founding, which truly is the greatest political experiment in human history. Instead, students who are exposed to the 1619 Project will learn to despise their country and their fellow citizens. That is a recipe for division and disaster.
In response to parents’ concerns about the 1619 Project and critical race theory, we have introduced a bill to prevent federal funding from being used to teach the 1619 Project in K–12 schools. This bill, titled the Saving American History Act, would not prevent any local school from making decisions about what curriculum they wish to teach — but it would state firmly that federal taxpayer dollars cannot be used to teach a malicious lie that threatens to divide the country on the basis of race.
America’s students deserve to know the true story of our nation’s Founding, and to be able to grapple with, and debate, the difficult questions in our history. That story includes many great and noble chapters, from the abolition of slavery and Civil Rights Movement to the moon landing and the liberation of Europe from Nazi tyranny. It also includes many dark chapters where our nation has failed to live up to our own noble principles. Teachers ought to present this history in its full glory and tragedy, making clear how our Founding principles have inspired generations of patriots and reformers.
Truthful discussions never begin with lies. The 1619 Project is founded on a lie. It has no place in our nation’s schools.
Tom Cotton represents Arkansas in the U.S. Senate. Ken Buck is a United States representative from Colorado.