The Republican legislation prohibiting Iowa schools, colleges and regents institutions from incorporating the 1619 Project or “any similarly developed curriculum” in U.S. history classes to learn about slavery raises this question: How is this legislation not “cancel culture”?

(18) comments

Bohlken1

Mr. May, Obviously, the teacher could also describe the positive features of the 1619 project without utilizing it as a curriculum. The problem with the 1619 Project is that its false and misleading aspects far outweigh any beneficial aspects. Protecting our children from curricula based on multiple obviously false and misleading narratives is not "cancel culture". We should protect children from the 1619 Project just we should protect them from the "Lost Cause" narrative of the Civil War. The "Lost Cause" narrative posits that the Civil War was a fight between two morally equivalent forces based on disputes over states rights, the free navigation of the Mississippi River and unfair commercial exploitation of the South by the North. Somehow, the "Lost Cause" narrative either neglects to mention the preservation of slavery, which the Confederacy at the time admitted was the predominant cause for secession and the war, or downplays it as one of many factors. The "Lost Cause" narrative is as nonsensical as the 1619 Project's propositions that slavery was the founding of America or that the American Revolution was fought to preserve it.

The 1619 Project accurately portrays the heroic struggle of many Blacks to obtain freedom while downplaying, diminishing and/or ignoring the efforts of many whites, including the founding fathers, to reduce and ultimately destroy slavery.

Similarly, the "Lost Cause" truthfully acknowledges the heroism on both sides of the Civil War, as did General Grant. The "Lost Cause" theory, however, ignores Grant's observation that the cause for which the Confederates fought was one of the most evil ever known.

Michael R May

Mr. Bohlken, I have read all 248 words of your reply. I can identify few words that question the classroom dialogue that would result from the Republican effort at “cancel culture” that you and Mr. Kirby champion.

That said, I have revised the dialogue to incorporate your view. Your revision to the dialogue further proves my point that the Iowa legislation you support is Republican “cancel culture” censorship by government.

STUDENT: I am reading the “1776 Commission Report” attacking the “1619 Project”. What is that “1619 Project”?

TEACHER: Under Iowa law, I am restricted in answering your question because the “1619 Project” has been banned from the teaching curriculum. I can only speak to the alleged “deficiencies and falsehoods” of the “1619 Project”. I have to be very guarded in anything I say about the “1619 Project” -- especially what may be any merits of the “1619 Project” -- because the school could lose our funding under Iowa law.

Bohlken1

Mr. May, the 1778 Commission Report is a 45 page report which recommends accurately addressing slavery as one of several threats or challenges to America's founding principles as opposed to the 1619 Project's false narrative of slavery being the essence of America's founding. it is not intended to be a complete history of slavery or the KKK.

The legislation, HF222, in question has the following key provision: "A school shall not utilize any United States history curriculum that in whole or in part is derived from a project by the New York Times, known as the '1619

16 Project', or any similarly developed curriculum."

There is a vast difference between a teacher identifying the 1619 Project curriculum and discussing its deficiencies and falsehoods in response to a student's question and using the 1619 Project Curriculum to teach. Answering the question would obviously not constitute using the 1619 Project curriculum to teach history and would obviously not violate the law. It is nonsense to suggest that answering the student's question, under this legislation, would threaten the school's funding.

It is not cancel culture to seek the accurate teaching of American history, including both failures and successes. Dr. Lucas Morel, Professor of Politics, Washington and Lee University has noted that Hannah-Jones, the curator of the 1619 project, "said that 'there is no such thing as objective history,' as if there was no actual record of what happened and as if what matters is not truth but who is in control."

Michael R May

Mr. Bohlken, I assume your glowing recommendation of Trump’s 1776 Commission Report is not your effort at irony, e.g., the 1776 Report contains only one (1) reference to the Ku Klux Klan.

More significantly your reference proves my point that the Iowa legislation you support is Republican “cancel culture” censorship by government.

Consider this classroom dialogue following your recommendation of teaching Trump’s 1776 Commission Report.

STUDENT: I am reading the 1776 Commission Report attacking the “1619 Project”. What is that “1619 Project”?

TEACHER: Under Iowa law, I am not allowed to answer your question because the “1619 Project” has been banned. I cannot tell you more because the school could lose our funding under the law.

Steve Kirby

The focus of this exchange is not on Mr. Bohlken’s or my view on slavery; neither of us is going to be providing instruction on that topic in Iowa schools. The focus of this exchange is rather on a proposed course of instruction in Iowa schools that scholars and professors in the fields of Political Science and American History have shown to contain significant misinformation and slanted, unsupported opinions: the 1619 Project.

We live in an upside-down world when there are those who claim that the effort to keep identified misinformation and slanted, unsupported opinions out of courses of instruction in Iowa schools is an example of “governmental censorship.” I rather find it to be a particularly good approach to maintaining quality education in Iowa schools.

Bohlken1

A correction, I meant to refer to the "1776 Commission, not 1778 Commission."

Bohlken1

Mr. May, I believe that the reference to "“any similarly developed curriculum” in U.S. history classes" refers to any similarly false and misleading curriculum, not to all education on slavery. It again must be stressed that accurate information, not popular or fashionable fables, must be provided students. One source I would recommend would be "Racism and Anti-racism In the World: Before and After 1945" by Kathleen Brush. A second source, the Report of the 1778 Commission, identifies and discusses slavery, progressivism, fascism, communism, racism and identity politics as threats or challenges to America's founding principles as set forth in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Michael R May

The reply of Mr. Bohlken may evidence some progress toward agreement to revise the proposed legislation because he seems to agree that the history of slavery should be taught in schools. Mr. Bohlken’s agreement means that the proposed legislation should delete some current language which is broad enough to ban the teaching of all history of slavery.

Deleting the overbroad language from the legislation exposes as governmental censorship the banning of the 1619 Project from schools. Targeting for exclusion one curriculum is plainly governmental censorship. Even worse, it is governmental censorship in a one-party state.

What Mr. Bohlken and Mr. Kirby both fail to understand is that their views of slavery are simply one view among many. Their views are the beginning – not the end -- of debate as part of classroom learning. Their views are not – and can never been in a free nation -- justification for governmental censorship prohibiting debate.

Steve Kirby

The focus of this exchange is not on Mr. Bohlken’s or my view on slavery; neither of us is going to be providing instruction on that topic in Iowa schools. The focus of this exchange is rather on a proposed course of instruction in Iowa schools that scholars and professors in the fields of Political Science and American History have shown to contain significant misinformation and slanted, unsupported opinions: the 1619 Project.

We live in an upside-down world when there are those who claim that the effort to keep identified misinformation and slanted, unsupported opinions out of courses of instruction in Iowa schools is an example of “governmental censorship.” I rather find it to be a particularly good approach to maintaining quality education in Iowa schools.

Bohlken1

I don't understand the reluctance to block the incorporation of such a notoriously inaccurate source as the 1619 Project in school history curriculums. There are certainly volumes of accurate information available about slavery and race relations without relying on a source that promotes such unsupported falsehoods as the outlandish proposition that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery!

The 1619 Project and other sources attempt to portray the leading antiracist nation in the world, the United States, as systemically racist. They ignore the sacrifice of 320000 white union soldiers who, along with 40,000 Black union soldiers, died to free the slaves. Thousands more were maimed or wounded.

They ignore the defeat of the two most racist dictatorships in history by the U.S. in WWII, the dismantlement of the Jim Crow system of discrimination and the elevation of Blacks to positions of authority ranging from the cop on the beat to the President of the United States. They ignore the creation of anti-discrimination laws and affirmative action systems to fight racial discrimination. Incredibly, they turn their back on Martin Luther King's standard that people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. They seek to substitute a new racism, stereotyping all whites as racist and privileged.

The willingness to use falsehood to promote these stereotypes is unlimited. Democratic Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield actually claimed that, due to a racist health care system, the mortality rate for Blacks and Black females in Iowa is six times that of any other group. In fact their respective mortality rates in Iowa are less than one-half of mortality rates for whites and white females.

The head Bishop of my own church, based on misinformation from her father, claimed that the famed Tuskegee airmen were denied GI Bill aid for education as Blacks were excluded from the Bill. It was easy to find that Black Tuskegee airmen had graduated from M.I.T. using the GI Bill. After this was pointed out, she retracted the statement, but then reran the same column, with no corrections, when George Floyd died.

One doesn't have to claim that racism has disappeared. But, being called a "racist" today is considered the worst insult that can be given, or it would be if many non-racist things, such as Sponge Bob Square Pants, were not wildly labeled as "racist". This has diluted the sting of that label.

There has to be a realistic, accurate portrayal of American successes and failures with respect to racism. That cannot be expected from the 1619 Project.

Michael R May

Mr. Kirby. Thank you for your reply.

We have different views of education in a free nation.

I agree with Ms. Vanderhoef’s comment, especially, “Part of the educational process is learning to discriminate truth from fiction and becoming aware that there are often gray areas in between.”

Defending students’ freedom to learn about history is never achieved by government censorship of a topic like slavery. Instead, defending students’ minds from the governmental censorship you support defends students from enslavement to opinions decreed in a one-party state. The classroom is where the freedom to think should be defended against government censorship that oppresses the freedom to think so fundamental to the survival of our Republic.

Steve Kirby

It is interesting that Mr. May and Ms. Vanderhoef emphasize that the validity of the information in the 1619 Project should be determined through fact checking done by students and their respective teachers. To not allow this is, as Mr. May puts it, “government censorship.”

The reality is that the 1619 Project has already been fact checked by professors and scholars in the field of Political Science and American History. This fact checking has shown that the 1619 Project is rife with misinformation and unsupported, slanted opinions.

For example: “Dr. Allen C. Guelzo, who is the senior research scholar in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University and director of the James Madison Program’s Initiative in Politics and Statesmanship refuted three major claims” of the 1619 Project. Guelzo had this to say about the overall 1619 Project: "What we are dealing with is historical sloppiness that pushes things to an absurd degree."

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/not-the-way-to-do-history-princeton-university-historian-blasts-1619-project-as-historical-sloppiness-unworthy-of-pulitzer

Here are just a few more of the numerous articles about scholars and professors in the fields of Political Science and American History who have written about the inaccuracy of the information in the 1619 Project:

“Scholars are eviscerating The New York Times’ 1619 Project,” https://nypost.com/2020/01/24/scholars-are-eviscerating-the-new-york-times-1619-project/

“These Historians Challenge New York Times’ Dubious 1619 Project,” https://www.dailysignal.com/2019/12/18/these-historians-challenge-new-york-times-dubious-1619-project/

“These Black Scholars and Leaders Rebuke 1619 Project’s Narrative of Victimhood,” https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/02/19/these-black-scholars-and-leaders-rebuke-1619-projects-narrative-of-victimhood/

I think we can agree about the importance of students at all levels of education having the freedom to learn. But the freedom to learn means nothing if that learning is not based on 1) accurate information and 2) opinion supported by facts; the 1619 Project fails in both categories.

Michael R May

Mr. Kirby, please make an effort to familiarize yourself with the proposed legislation which is broader than the 1619 project. As I made clear in my letter, the proposed legislation includes “any similarly developed curriculum” in U.S. history classes. Lastly, the legislation specifying one curriculum -- the 1619 project -- censors one body of knowledge which should be part of any educational effort held in a free nation.

The legislation is Republican "cancel culture" at its most authoritarian in its consequence imposed in our one-party state. Our Iowa public schools were once nationally recognized s among the best in the nation. The proposed legislation would rightly place us among the states with the least commitment to the freedom of a robust examination of slavery.

Steve Kirby

Mr. May, as I pointed out there are numerous scholars who have noted the misinformation and slanted opinions expressed in the 1619 Project. It should come as no surprise then that the proposed legislation wants to exclude “any similarly developed curriculum.” Considering the misinformation in the 1619 Project, why would we want to have any similar curricula in our schools?

You stated that the proposed legislation “censors one body of knowledge.” I don’t know how you define “body of knowledge.” But, based on what we know about the 1619 Project, the definition appears to include misinformation and slanted opinions in spite of the facts. With those criteria, why not include Holocaust Denial as a “body of knowledge”?

You express concern about the educational quality of our schools, but I fail to see how including the 1619 Project “body of knowledge” with its misinformation and slanted opinions can have any other effect than to lower that quality.

Wezel

Censorship of materials simply makes them more sought after. It is the job of the instructors and students to read the available materials, fact check and then glean an expanded view of the topic studied. There has been much written by esteemed historians concerning the validity of this project. That research could certainly be a part of the study of slavery in The United States of America. The criticisms of this project or any project are easily researched and provide views through the historians' individual lenses. The writings of the 1619 project bear study. Part of the educational process is learning to discriminate truth from fiction and becoming aware that there are often gray areas in between. For centuries the study of slavery in this country has been minimized. I celebrate the idea of putting the topic front and center. Nothing is gained by censorship. I believe our government should refrain from writing curriculum. Let the professionals do that.

Robin Vanderhoef

Steve Kirby

The legislation prohibiting the incorporation of the 1619 Project into U.S. History classes in Iowa is not an example of “seeking to erase the facts of slavery” or prohibiting students from learning about slavery. The effort to prohibit the 1619 Project in Iowa schools and universities is because the essays comprising this project contain misinformation and slanted opinions that leave out significant facts that would undermine that opinion.

Instead of making a judgement based on May’s sweeping, vague statements, I suggest readers look at the following articles in order to understand the true nature of the 1619 Project and why it should be prohibited in Iowa classrooms at all levels:

“A Review of the 1619 Project Curriculum,” by Dr. Lucas Morel, Professor of Politics, Washington and Lee University - https://www.heritage.org/progressivism/report/review-the-1619-project-curriculum

“Twelve Scholars Critique the 1619 Project and the New York Times Magazine Editor Responds - https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/174140

Steve Kirby

MMVernon

Thanks Mike. How true it is. The effort to keep the 1619 Project out of our schools an upper education is an effort to deny history. Yes an effort to cancel culture. It is very troubling.

Vselecman

Ideally we would teach history be having students study original documents and reports to get the truth about events uncolored by later changes of opinion. Unfortunately we see things through a distorted lens. What was right in 1620 or 1820 is wrong in 2020. It is difficult enough for current students to imagine the world of 300 years ago and the context In which this country developed. Let’s not complicate that with inaccurate propaganda. That’s what the bill is trying to say.

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