Washington Schools Reject The 1619 Project

David Acevedo

Editor's Note: This article was originally published under the name "John David," the former pseudonym of NAS Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To learn more about why David no longer writes under this name, click here.

CounterCurrent: Week of 12/6

At this point, most of us know about The New York Times’ 1619 Project. In the event that you’ve been too busy to steep into this controversy, here’s the summary: Published in August 2019, the Project sought to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” The “journalistic” campaign was spearheaded by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a NYT reporter who contributed the Project’s verbosely titled, Pulitzer Prize-winning lead essay, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.” The Project goes on to explain how pretty much everything, including America’s sugary diet and traffic jams, can be attributed to the slave trade.

Sharp critique ensued from historians of all stripes, and Hannah-Jones essentially refused to engage with any of her detractors (save for the all-too-frequent polemic on Twitter). The Times itself has been exceedingly reluctant to correct any of the Project’s multitudinous errors, with one tiny exception made known to the public and a much more substantial piece of the campaign’s thesis statement removed clandestinely.

What’s more, The New York Times has partnered with the Pulitzer Center (no relation to the prize-awarding committee) to create K-12 history curricula based on the thoroughly debunked pseudo-history of The 1619 Project. Some 3,500 American classrooms have already used the materials, including in Chicago, Newark, NJ, Buffalo, NY, and Washington D.C. But others are fighting back.

In this week’s featured article, Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center reports that the state’s 15 largest school districts, including Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma Public Schools, do not plan to utilize 1619 Project curricula in their history classrooms. This amounts to nearly 400,000 students, or ~35% of all schoolchildren in Washington. 

Finne, who is director of the WPC’s Center for Education, also published a policy note summarizing The 1619 Project’s historical flaws. She cites the criticism of numerous scholars, including acclaimed historian Gordon Wood and our own work at the National Association of Scholars (mistakenly called the National Academy of Scholars), concluding that “The 1619 Project is poorly researched, and riddled with flaws and disgraced by unprofessional journalistic behavior. … As public officials, school board members, administrators and teaching staff have a moral obligation to ensure that children receive an education that is fair, accurate and unbiased.”

Finne concludes last week’s report with the following:

Given the severe critique by respected national scholars and historians, the decision by Washington state public educators is not surprising.  They appear to be shunning the controversial recommendation of The New York Times to adopt a radically flawed U.S. history course.  Instead, school leaders appear to be staying with established U.S. history courses and state standards, which include a robust review of Washington’s pioneer settlement, development as a Territory and key events since adopting statehood.

We commend these Washington school districts for rejecting the 1619-inspired hogwash that is already propagandizing many thousands of American students as we speak. We urge other districts to follow suit, and for those who have adopted 1619 curricula to return to honest, accurate American history instruction right away. 

If your school district has adopted 1619 curricula, you should reach out to your school board to voice your concerns. Click here for template letters that may be sent to superintendents, school board members, state legislators, and governors. We encourage you to use our critiques and those of so many others who see all that is wrong with The 1619 Project.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’  weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Image: Joe Mabel, Public Domain

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