On April 19 the Biden Education Department released “Proposed Priorities,” a set of rules that, if approved, would cement radically racist instruction into the nation’s schools.
The document sets priorities for grants in American Civics and History programs, and calls for public comment by May 19. Applicants for the grants must “take into account systemic marginalization, biases, inequities and discriminatory policy and practice in American history.”
In other words, only those who hate America need apply.
The announcement quotes Biden’s Executive Order 13985, which claims to advance “racial equity” but which foments racial discord instead. According to Biden’s E.O. “Our country faces … crises” such as “the unbearable human costs of systemic racism.” This is a contrived problem that invites a contrived, government solution: “Our Nation deserves an ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda.”
American civics education is at the center of that agenda. Starting with the false premise of “systemic racism, the “Proposed Priorities” rationalize preferences in grant money for anti-Americanism. With alluring terms such as “information literacy,” and “culturally responsive,” the document promotes unserious, pernicious and debunked myths such as the New York Times 1619 Project. In 2019, the Times advanced the idea that America’s true founding principle was slavery. It built pseudo-pedagogies including “anti-racism,” Ibram X. Kendi’s attempt to explain that all variations in racial-group outcomes are caused by racism. The anti-racist solution to present and past discrimination is not equal rights, but more discrimination. As Kendi explains in How To Be An Anti-Racist:
The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.
1619-ism and Kendi-ism deny that freedom is a genuine American ideal, and derogate the importance of individual merit and hard work. According to these twin ideologies, America is thoroughly a land of racial oppression and exploitation.
The “Proposed Priorities” elevate this ideological and psychological warfare against Americans to federal policy. They invite citizens to turn on each other. Who benefits from this? Basketball star Charles Barkely opined:
I think most white people and Black people are great people. I really believe that in my heart. But I think our system is set up where our politicians, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, are designed to make us not like each other so they can keep their grasp of money and power. They divide and conquer.
What to do?
First, NAS has created a new Civics Alliance to unite those who understand that American history and civics education must be based on verifiable truth, not identity politics or racial grievance. The NAS initiative is fighting for real, fact-based, civics education for every American student.
Second, state policy makers need to be informed of the anti-American bent of these federal grants and programs—and they need to resist them. Already, several states have banned the divisive content that these programs represent. Without such resistance, schools will simply become the political training ground for BLM activists.
Third, more scholars need to speak publicly about America’s long fight against arbitrary rule and state sponsored discrimination based on race, sex, or creed. Even today, most of the world is mired in tribalism or forms of hereditary hierarchy. America was founded on individual rights to transcend tribalism and identity politics. Ignorance of America’s founding principles fuels racialist propaganda. Those who know better must speak.
Fourth, creating a “hostile environment” based on race is illegal under federal law. NAS plans to encourage state attorneys general and other high-level legal officials to challenge the content and products of these federal grants for what will likely amount to encouragement of even more state sponsored discrimination.
Finally, NAS members and their friends and colleagues should submit comments. This will force the Department of Education to engage with opposition to concepts such as “systemic racism,” “anti-racism” and other elements of anti-American agitprop. Even if the Biden administration rules prevail in the short term, the record must reflect strong, informed, and broad-based opposition to anti-American brainwashing as “education.”
That record can then serve as a foundation for real reform in civics education.
Teresa Manning is Policy Director at the National Association of Scholars.