Replacing History with a 'Narrative'

The Left's vicious assault on America.

Voters this election rejected the teaching of The 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory, as proven by the results of Virginia’s gubernatorial race and, less publicized but as equally telling in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, where nineteen-year-old, Nicholas Seppy won a seat on the school board. Seppy said he thought that the history of slavery should be taught in the classroom, but it should be taught objectively.

I agree with him. That’s why I wrote Debunking The 1619 Project and before that Debunking Howard Zinn.

So hats off to Christopher Rufo who exposed these toxic materials and to Seppy and Virginia governor-elect Glenn Youngkin who listened to parents who were rightfully outraged.

But we cannot rest. The radical “educrats” who believe they are the ones to remake your children never do.

Over the years I have seen how “educators” introduce a topic, put on a pretense of retreating, and then sneak back. This happened with the teaching of Ethnic Studies in California, which was withdrawn for about eighteen months after complaints about antisemitism. Then—surprise!—it was signed into law by the governor. Superficial changes had been made but the promotion of politicized ethnic identity—what the educrats wanted—will remain for all California high school graduates.

Similarly, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which claims to “establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade,” was rebranded under various names by states. But the damage remains as demonstrable knowledge of the subject matter was replaced by students’ ability to “collaborate” and accept “diversity.” As I pointed out back in 2012, Common Core broke down the distinctions between nonfiction and fiction. English teachers were tasked with having students read “cold” such historical materials as the Gettysburg Address.

This development, as well as that of Critical Race Theory’s assault on truth and replacement of objective history with “narrative,” has ushered in the use in classrooms of such materials as The 1619 Project, a hundred-page mishmash of polemical essays, “literary works'' contemplating “moments in history,” short biased articles, and profiles. Creator Nikole Hannah-Jones has insisted that her Project is truthful. But when accepting the Freedom of Speech award from the Roosevelt Institute on October 13, she called The 1619 Project a “narrative,” one pushing the “policy” of reparations. Students in grades K-12, however, are told that it is history.

But real history is not “narrative.” It is certainly not what Hannah-Jones presents: white Americans as uniquely and uniformly guilty of enslaving people. I testified about what it leaves out—such as black involvement in slavery in Africa and America—before the Michigan State Senate for a bill that would remove it from classrooms. A version was recently passed by the Michigan House. Fortunately, over half of the states have passed or introduced legislation to remove The 1619 Project from classroom material.

Still, we cannot rest.

Though it may be removed from the curriculum, a 600-page hardcover edition of The 1619 Project and a children’s picture book version, Born on the Water, were published by Penguin Random House on November 16. The picture book has a grandmother telling her grandchildren a fantastical history of white oppression of blacks. At the end she says, “This is why we say Black Lives Matter, why we celebrate Black Girl Magic.” The hardcover edition, intended for high school use, is an expansion of the original, with footnotes from Marxist historians and leftist organizations. The teachers guide offers a historian’s claim that history is a matter of “‘evolving interpretations, not facts’”—in support of Hannah-Jones’s claim that the “fights over the 1619 Project were never really about the facts.”

While young students have a grandmother promoting Black Lives Matter, high school students are instructed in advocating for reparations. They are directly asked to contemplate Hannah-Jones’s “arguments for reparations for Black Americans” and how this country “can make amends for the legacy of slavery, theft, violence, terror, and mass incarceration.”

Hannah-Jones’s 600,000-plus Twitter followers are eagerly “donating” copies via leftist bookstores to school libraries, where librarians, eager to “decolonize” libraries, are discarding classics to make room.           

Similarly, The Zinn Education Project, when a bill was proposed in Arkansas to forbid the use of Howard Zinn’s Marxist tract in publicly funded schools in 2017, used the opportunity to fundraise and send copies to teachers. Recently, it has enlisted teachers and students to defy current legislation.

Professors are pushing both of these fake histories. The 1619 Project became a “common read” on campuses across the country after the riots of 2020. It is being taught as a first-year seminar at Notre Dame University by English professor John Duffy.

The University of Georgia Press just published what is essentially a teacher’s manual, Rethinking America’s Past: Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States in the Classroom and Beyond by history professor Robert Cohen and education professor Sonia E. Murrow. This book, by two credentialed professors, ignores Zinn’s falsification of evidence, misquotations, fabrications, and plagiarism and promotes a clearly Marxist history. It presents my book that documents it all as “mean-spirited” “polemic.”

Students, at the minimum, should have access to materials that do insist that facts matter and that provide alternatives to Zinn and The 1619 Project.

With this year’s election over, we should now insist that librarians at public schools and public libraries give such materials equal space on bookshelves. They are, after all, paid for by taxpayers.

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