Education

McConnell, GOP Urge Education Department to Resist ‘Activist Indoctrination’ in Curriculum | Politics

Congressional Republicans accused the Biden administration Friday of pushing a divisive and revisionist U.S. history curriculum on schools in the wake of its announcement that it plans to prioritize more diverse perspectives and slavery’s lasting impact on inequality in the U.S.

In a letter addressed to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and signed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and 36 of his Republican colleagues, McConnell argued the Biden administration’s efforts are akin to “spoon-feeding students a slanted story.”

“Americans do not need or want their tax dollars diverted from promoting the principles that unite our nation toward promoting radical ideologies meant to divide us,” McConnell wrote. “Our nation’s youth do not need activist indoctrination that fixates solely on past flaws and splits our nation into divided camps. Taxpayer-supported programs should emphasize the shared civic virtues that bring us together, not push radical agendas that tear us apart.”

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order dissolving the Trump administration’s “1776 Commission,” which was established as a rebuke to the Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project” from The New York Times and the momentum growing among school districts in adopting a more diverse history curriculum around slavery and how it’s fueled inequality in the U.S.

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The Education Department announced in the Federal Register earlier this month that it is seeking input on priorities for civics education and U.S. history, in particular its intent to incorporate “racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning” – part of the president’s whole of administration focus on racism and inequality.

The announcement specifically cites the “1619 Project” and the “growing acknowledgement of the importance of including, in the teaching and learning of our country’s history, both the consequences of slavery, and the significant contributions of Black Americans to our society.”

The debate over the foundation of America and how it should be taught in schools comes at a time of national reckoning over the impact of systemic racism and inequality borne out of the country’s history of slavery, as well as at moment of legitimate crisis in civics education.

Recent surveys have shown that barely half of Americans can name the three branches of government and that most would earn an “F” on the U.S. citizenship exam. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress found that just 15{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of eighth-graders are proficient in U.S. history.

Those critical of the push for states and school districts to emphasize a view of U.S. history that examines more deeply the generational impacts of some of the country’s ugliest moments argue that it amounts to revisionism and promotes division, negativity and shame in identifying as American. Instead, they say, now is a moment to strengthen the traditional U.S. history curriculum.

“Families did not ask for this divisive nonsense,” McConnell wrote in the letter. “Voters did not vote for it. Americans never decided our children should be taught that our country is inherently evil.”

Advocates for a reimagined teaching of U.S. history – one that aims to help students understand why inequities persist in health care, housing, education and more – argue that embracing the hard lessons will better equip students to strive for the ideals of democracy on which the country was founded.

Notably, the federal government is prohibited from playing a role in setting curriculum, which is governed entirely by states and local school districts.

The GOP’s continued outrage over the growing number of school districts adopting a more diverse teaching of U.S. history plays into its increasing focus on culture wars, including free speech on college campuses, transgender students participating in sports and even Dr. Seuss and Meghan Markle – a strategy some see as helping to energize and unite their base going into the next presidential election.

Most recently, McConnell has warned corporate American that it will rue the day corporations started acting like “a woke parallel government” in the wake of the cancellation of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Georgia after legislators there enacted new, more restrictive election laws.

“As powerful institutions increasingly subject Americans to a drumbeat of revisionism and negativity about our nation’s history and identity, American pride has plummeted to its lowest level in 20 years,” McConnell wrote. “We request that you withdraw these Proposed Priorities and refocus on civic education and American history programs that will empower future generations of citizens to continue making our nation the greatest force for good in human history.”