State Watch

20 state AGs tell Education Dept they oppose teaching critical race theory

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Twenty state attorneys general told the Education Department that they oppose teaching critical race theory in classrooms, according to a letter penned Wednesday.

The attorneys general, led by Indiana Attorney General Good Rokita (R), sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona asking him to reconsider a proposal that would prioritize the “1619 Project” and critical race theory for federal grant programs.

“The proposed priorities are a thinly veiled attempt at bringing into our states’ classrooms the deeply flawed and controversial teachings of Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project,” the letter states.

The Education Department proposed priorities for federal grant programs for American History and Civic Education  in April that would offer funding for schools that used the “1619 Project” and other works in its curriculum. 

Proposed priorities in the document stated the “support the development of culturally responsive teaching and learning and the promotion of information literacy skills.”

The document continued that one proposed priority was to “incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning.”

The “1619 Project,” is a multi-media body of work published by The New York Times Magazine in 2019 that examines the legacy of slavery in the United States. 

The project was the subject of intense controversy and backlash from conservative lawmakers and leaders.

Following the release of The New York Times’s work, former President Trump organized the 1776 Commission in 2020. The objective was to set up a national commission to “promote patriotic education.” President Biden rescinded the commission his first day in office. 

Most recently, the project’s author, Nikole Hannah-Jones, was denied tenure at UNC-Chapel Hill after conservative groups came out against her hire. 

Critical race theory argues that racism is rooted in the nation’s founding and that systemic racism continues to affect the way people of color are treated at all levels in society.

The attorneys general wrote that critical race theory “supports the idea that America is a fundamentally racist country and that our institutions are inherently systemically racist.”

“Promoting this warped view of American history does not support the teaching of American history as required by [federal] statute, but instead props up an idea based not in fact, but on the idea that the United States is a nation founded on white supremacy, patriarchy, and oppression and that these forces are still at the root of our society,” the group wrote.

Rokita was joined by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

The letter from the state attorneys general comes after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in late April urged Cardona to remove the “1619 Project” from the federal grants program. 

“We write to express grave concern with the Department’s effort to reorient the bipartisan American History and Civics Education programs, including the Presidential and Congressional Academies for American History and Civics and the National Activities programs, away from their intended purposes toward a politicized and divisive agenda,” McConnell wrote in a letter to the Education secretary at the time. 

Tags Critical race theory Donald Trump Joe Biden Miguel Cardona Mitch McConnell The 1619 Project

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