The Biden administration plans to offer grants for U.S. history classes that teach critical race theory and the “1619 Project,” a New York Times series that views slavery and the consequences of slavers as the centerpiece of the American narrative.
The grants were proposed this week as part of programs that dispense several million dollars a year to K-12 schools. Critics of the anti-racism ideology and the historical inaccuracies in the 1619 Project warned that the grant program was an administration precursor to cementing the left-wing curriculum in Department of Education policy.
“What’s really happening in the ‘Proposed Priorities’ is an effort to establish funding priorities that will shape the $1 billion per year Educating for American Democracy (EAD) bill pending in Congress,” said Peter Wood, president of the conservative National Association of Scholars.
The grant program was listed in the Federal Register on Monday as a proposed rule, which is open to comment until May 19. The rule touts the teachings of Ibram X. Kendi, a Black professor and pioneer in critical race theory. The crux of the theory is that White people are complicit in perpetuating systemic racism, regardless of their thoughts or actions. Part of the remedy, according to some proponents of the theory, is an unspecified period of reverse discrimination to smash entrenched White supremacist institutions.
The 1619 Project, which received a Pulitzer Prize, has been scored by Ivy League professors and Pulitzer Prize-winning historians as bogus history because it makes slavery the defining characteristic of the American experience.
In particular, The 1619 Project falsely characterized the American Revolution as driven by a desire to protect slavery in the Colonies, according to an analysis by historian Gordon S. Wood of Brown University.
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Other historians challenged the premise that 1619, the year slaves first arrived in the Colonies, marked the “true founding” of America.
The New York Times eventually altered the online version of the 1619 Project without an editor’s note, removing the “true founding” language.
The Department of Education did not respond to phone calls and emails requesting comments on the grants.
People familiar with the grants, which are tied to the Presidential and Congressional Academies for American History and Civics and National Activities programs, said they usually total roughly $5 million annually.
Experts predicted the Biden administration would attempt to tie the same critical race theory curriculum to other Department of Education initiatives.
“The idea in the Department of Education is to establish a precedent for neo-racist pedagogy in one small program so that the vastly larger program, should it become law, can swim right ahead with 1619 revisionist history and Kendi’s I-hate-America reductionism,” Mr. Wood said.
The ultimate goal is to improve “the quality of teaching of American history, civics, and government in elementary schools and secondary schools, including the teaching of traditional American history,” according to the proposal.
Under the rule, those who incorporate more of Mr. Kendi’s anti-racism concepts and the 1619 Project will be prioritized in the awarding of grants.
The Department of Education said in the rule that these lessons are important now because COVID-19 has had a “disproportionate impact on people of color” and because the U.S. is undergoing a “national reckoning with systemic racism [that] highlighted the urgency of improving racial equity throughout our society, including in our education system.”
Altering education in K-12 schools throughout the U.S. has long been a goal of advocates of critical race theory. In December, Mr. Kendi told an audience at Yale that the goal is “how do we educate those people to challenge and disrupt power and policy? All of that is crucial.”
Critics disagree that the pandemic emergency justifies the curriculum and argue that the coursework does not qualify as an honest intellectual approach to U.S. history.
“What’s baked into these priorities are the ideas that America is systemically racist, that Americans are implicitly racist and that anyone who denies these views is spreading ‘misinformation,’” Mr. Wood said. “No program that gives the stamp of federal approval to such risible sources deserves the light of day. These ‘Proposed Priorities’ are an affront to history and civics as they should be taught.”
Mr. Biden’s move to the left on race-based education is a dramatic departure from his moderate education stances during the 2020 presidential campaign. It suggests a far-left element within the administration is winning the internal debate on education policy, said Christopher Rufo, who has written extensively on critical race theory in education at City Journal and elsewhere.
“President Biden is structuring the Department of Education’s programs to incentivize critical race theory in America’s public schools,” Mr. Rufo said in an interview. “Biden campaigned as a moderate, but this decision would bring a radical and unpopular ideology into the classroom. The federal government should reject the principles of race essentialism, collective guilt and neo-segregation, not encourage them in the public education system.”