The Woodson Center announced a new component of its “1776 Unites” K-12 curriculum Tuesday night, material built around the ideas of “heroic modern Black intellectuals.”
In particular, the curriculum will feature the thinking of prominent conservative Black economists Thomas Sowell, Glenn Loury and the late Walter Williams.
“We went from slavery to 2021,” said Anthony Bradley, a professor at religion and theology at King’s College. “We need to infuse the narrative to include the story of the gilded age of Reconstruction, of Black financial institutions that distributed money to the entrepreneurial spirit in the Black community. What killed that?”
Mr. Bradley joined conservative intellectuals Ian Rowe and Delano Squires in a web seminar to introduce the new curriculum that became a deep and wide-ranging discussion on the themes Mr. Loury, Mr. Sowell and Williams explore in their scholarship.
The 1776 Unites curriculum was created by the Woodson Center as a counter to the “1619 Project,” a New York Times’ series and curriculum that presents slavery and racism as the cornerstones of the American experience.
The trio began the discussion noting the so-called “genius” MacArthur Awards granted one Tuesday to Ibram X. Kendi, a Black professor at Boston University who is one of the foremost proponents of critical race theory.
Critical race theory holds, in an adaptation of Marxist ideas, that American life and institutions are suffused with White supremacist thinking and thus must be demolished and recreated.
Mr. Kendi stands with author Ta-Nahesi Coates and Nikole Hannah-Jones, the leader of the 1619 Project, as the most celebrated Black intellectuals in the current landscape, positions that Mr. Squires said can be attributed largely to White guilt.
“Part of the reason they are rewarded is they confirm the world view of those who give out awards, who are mostly White, center-left,” Mr. Squires said.
Moreover, the tenets of critical race theory and the 1619 Project stand in stark opposition to the thinking and research of Williams, who died last December and became the focal point of Tuesday’s discussion.
Williams believed a reliance on massive government transfer programs - the welfare state - robbed the Black community of autonomy and action, a position strongly supported by Mr. Squires and Mr. Bradley.
Stressing the differences that can be found regionally among Black communities, they sought to reframe the debate on race and economics.
“Walter went after some sacred cows in the Black community,” Mr. Rowe said.
“His data-driven work showed government policy actively undermined Black agency, Black prosperity and Black freedom,” Mr. Bradley said.
Mr. Squires stressed his belief the research of Williams and Mr. Sowell exposes how much White guilt and a reliance on government solutions permeates the current liberal stance.
“The issue is not malice, but hubris,” Mr. Squires said. “Someone sitting in some government office or ivory tower miles away from the Black community who knows what’s best, and thinks that if millions just submit to his thinking and plans, everything will be all right.”
Williams‘ work proved the consequences of policy are far more important than intent, an argument long advanced by Mr. Sowell’s research and writing. A dependent mindset among Black leaders and liberals is, according to one of Mr. Loury’s favorite themes, poor soil for growing Black excellence.
“It’s about Black mastery, not mediocrity,” Mr. Rowe said.
Mr. Loury has explored the reasons behind a lack of Black excellence and the need to concentrate more on it in “The Glenn Show” podcasts he has made with John McWhorter, a Black professor of linguistics at Columbia.
Mr. Loury and Mr. McWhorter often bristle with contempt for Mr. Kendi, whom Mr. Loury labels “an empty suit,” and that position clearly resonated with Tuesday night’s panel.
A core goal of the 1776 Unites curriculum, Mr. Rowe said, is instilling in students the notion that Black people can succeed and thrive without White help, and then providing myriad examples that prove it.
Certainly the careers of Williams, and Mr. Sowell and Mr. Loury, whose resumes glitter with degrees from Harvard, MIT, UCLA and other elite universities, also makes that point, the three men said.
“We need to repair the ideology that government has some magical idea about what’s best for the Black community,” Mr. Bradley said.
• James Varney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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