The senators, led by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, requesting that the education department revoke its proposed goals for U.S. history and civics education, as well as the National Activities initiative.
The department’s proposal was published on the Federal Register earlier this month with an 18-day comment period that ends May 19. It listed two priorities, including one that focused on incorporating diversity into teaching and learning and a second on the promotion of information literacy.
The letter slammed mainly the first priority, attacking the anti-racist and culturally responsive teaching it called for, which it said has already become a trend in K-12 schools.
The letter was particularly critical of teaching the effects of slavery and the important contributions of Black Americans to civilisation, as expressed in The New York Times’ seminal “1619 Project.”
The newspaper campaign, named after the year the first enslaved people arrived in Virginia, began in 2019 with the aim of focusing on the legacy of slavery and the accomplishments of Black Americans.
In the letter, senators accused the “1619 Project” of “putting ill-informed advocacy ahead of historical accuracy,” quoting an unidentified renowned scholar who denied the project’s claim that slavery was a key driver of the American Revolution.
The rebuke came despite The New York Times clarifying last year in a 1619 project update that slavery was a primary motivation for some of the colonists, not all of the colonists.
The letter also called the Oregon Department of Education’s promotion in February of “anti-racist math” by an organization that teaches that “white supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms” when “students are required to ‘show their work’ in only one way” as “absurd.”
It also opposed culturally sensitive anti-colonial and anti-gender segregation education, such as California’s recent statewide model curriculum asking teachers to lead students in a “Unity Chant” appealing to Aztec deities for “decolonization,” and New York curriculum on “cis-gender privilege.”
“Families did not ask for this divisive nonsense,” according to the letter. “It was not approved by the voters. Americans have never agreed that our children should be told that our nation is somehow corrupt. If your administration actually introduced actual laws rather than attempting to do it secretly in the Federal Register, the legislation would not have passed Congress.”