As previously discussed, the objections to the 1619 Project concerned some of its sweeping historical claims over slavery being a motivation for the American Revolution and labeling figures like Abraham Lincoln as racists.
According to The Atlantic, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz criticized that work and some of Hannah-Jones’s other work in a letter signed by scholars James McPherson, Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes. They raised “matters of verifiable fact” that “cannot be described as interpretation or ‘framing.’” They objected that the work represented “a displacement of historical understanding by ideology.” The Atlantic noted that “given the stature of the historians involved, the letter is a serious challenge to the credibility of the 1619 Project, which has drawn its share not just of admirers but also critics.” Researchers claimed the New York Times ignored them in raising the errors. The New York Times was criticized later for a “clarification” that undermined a main premise of her writing. None of that appeared to concern the Pulitzer Committee.
Under the new program, students would have to do the reparations math over the course of three to four school weeks. Teachers would prompt students to “evaluate whether they think reparations should be paid to descendents of enslaved people.”
This is not the first effort to redesign math curriculum with antiracist themes. Academics at schools like Vanderbilt have denounced math as “racist.” We previously discussed the view of University of Rhode Island professor (and Director of Graduate Studies of History) Erik Loomis that “Science, statistics, and technology are all inherently racist.” Others have agreed with that view, including denouncing math as racist or a “tool of whiteness.” There are also calls for the “decolonization” of math as a field.
Others have called for “decolonizing” math and, at schools like Bates College, professors proposed redesigning math courses to focus on the concepts of “colonialism and privilege.”
The introduction of a reparations-focused math curriculum comes at a time when many are pushing for payments of as much as $5 million per eligible resident in states like California.
This month, a Biden appointee and law professor called upon the United Nations to act to secure reparations for black Americans and to end “the continuation of slavery” through mass incarceration in the United States. Howard Law Professor Justin Hansford is the only American representative on the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent.
Recently, Democrats introduced a bill demanding $14 trillion in reparations.
As task forces in states like California have issued recommendations for payments, the demands are presenting a challenge for Democratic politicians who have long campaigned on such payments as a moral imperative. That bill has now come due but politicians like California Gov. Gavin Newsom have sought to pivot away from demands from his own Reparations Task Force for massive payments.
Trust in our public schools has fallen to record lows with a major exodus out of public education. This is due in part to the view that teachers and administrators now put political and social agendas ahead of traditional educational priorities — even as scores continue to fall in many districts. With some declaring that teaching is “a political act,” parents are increasingly taking their kids to schools with a focus on core subjects and skills.
The Pulitzer/1619 proposals may soon bring the issue to classrooms across the country.
The curriculum asks “should reparations be paid for the United States’ use of enslaved labor?” However, the guidelines declare that students would be assessed based on their presentations that seem to assume that reparations should be made:
“A project-based learning rubric will be used to evaluate final presentations created by students to share their research into the lasting impacts of slavery on the wealth gap for African Americans, and their cases for reparations to descendents of enslaved Africans and African Americans. Their presentations should also share what math function the U.S. should use to determine and provide monetary preparations.”
That “assessment” will likely strike many parents as suggesting more indoctrination than education on the issue.
What is interesting is that Pulitzer/1619 Project designers cite a proposed bill as the basis for the new curriculum. H.R. 40 is the proposal of Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D., Tx).
The bill has failed to pass in Congress, but would be the basis for the new curriculum. Lee recently said “H.R. 40 is 38 years on the books waiting for someone to say yes.” She is now calling on President Biden to use executive authority to unilaterally order the creation of the commission.