“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,” the letter states.
The letter continues that during a time where schools have been shuttered due to the pandemic students have suffered “substantial learning losses.” Thus, the letter states, this is a time to “strengthen the teaching of civics and American history in our schools.”
The letter further argued that the the Education Department’s proposed priorities applaud works such as the “1619 Project,” which the letter characterizes as “putting ill-informed advocacy ahead of historical accuracy.”
The letter is signed by McConnell and 38 other Republican senators.
The letter comes after the Department of Education listed the “1619 Project” in the department’s proposed priorities for American History and Civics Education and said they would offer grant programs for schools that used it in the classroom.
The “1619 Project” was started by the New York Times in 2019, aimed at highlighting American history since the first slave ship arrived in the American colonies in 1619 and exploring the legacy of slavery and racism in the United States.
McConnell’s letter contends that the project has been criticized by historians and serves to “double down on divisive, radical, and historically-dubious buzzwords and propaganda.”
“Actual, trained, credentialed historians with diverse political views have debunked the project’s many factual and historical errors, such as the bizarre and inaccurate notion that preserving slavery was a primary driver of the American Revolution,” the letter states.
Prominent liberal political strategists, academics and authors have their own criticisms of the 1619 Project but have yet to decide if they will go public with them, sources told Politico.
“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,” the letter concludes.
In a response to the letter, a Department of Education spokesperson said, “The background of the Notice of Proposed Priorities includes examples of how institutions and individuals are finally acknowledging the legacy of systemic inequities in this country and paying attention to it. The Department welcomes comments on the Proposed Priorities until May 19, 2021.”