The Three Rs: Reading, Writing, and Reparations?

The 1619 Project Education Network, in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center, have released a new curriculum for high school students that will convert some math classes into a discussion of reparations and racial justice.  Students will be asked to work out the math on the payment for past years of slavery and racial discrimination. A 2020 report found that prior 1619 Project curriculum proposals have been adopted in over 3,500 classrooms across all 50 states.The program, “Reparations Math and Reparations History,” is designed to have “students apply math skills, research into historical wealth gaps in the U.S., and an analysis of different reparations models to an investigation into whether or not reparations should be paid to the descendents of enslaved people in the U.S..”The 1619 Project has long been controversial due to questions over its historical accuracy, including opposition by some history teachers. The project is most associated with former New York Times writer and now Howard University Professor Nikole Hannah-Smith.  Hannah-Smith has declared that “all journalism is activism.”

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.

188 thoughts on “The Three Rs: Reading, Writing, and Reparations?”

  1. Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” still lives !! Let’s authorize $14 Trillion in reparations for people who never were slaves and just add it to our $31 trillion dollar deficit. What could possibly go wrong ? And who said that Democrats couldn’t find a creative way to buy votes (the wide-open Southern border is already the biggest Democratic voter drive in history). Thank you, Jonathan, for an excellent article.

    1. “…$14 Trillion in reparations for people who never were slaves….”

      …to be taken from people who never owned slaves. If this were to happen, the money would come from taxpayers—including black taxpayers. Or, is it the plan that only white American taxpayers will be assessed for these payments?

  2. To say this is not indoctrination is completely and obviously either ignorant or intentionally disingenuous and working in conjunction with the radical Left.

  3. The continued destruction of a generation of children continues unabated. The following is from the official NAEP website (not Fox news)

    The 2022, the percentage of eighth-graders performing below the NAEP Basic level was larger by 7 percentage points compared to 2019. The percentage of students performing below NAEP Basic was larger than all previous assessments dating back to 2003. Twenty-six percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level, which was 7 percentage points lower compared to 2019.estruction of a generation of children continues unabated.

    These stats are appalling and the leftist who are our school systems are to blame. They are plain evil and will put this country’s future in peril.

  4. Nonsense like this is the reason we are seeing the drive for school choice, vouchers, charter schools and homeschooling.
    We are seeing the formation of two different societies within one country.
    One focused on real education. Reading, writing, real math, the sciences, history in context. Most of the the grads from these schools will go on to become successful, productive members of society.
    The other will focus on indoctrination and DEI. Most of these grads will be barely able to read, write do math. The system will just pass them along until graduation and declare them a success. Yet testing proves otherwise. They will expect handouts, welfare and vote accordingly for those who would give them handouts.

    1. Old friend Upstate, this is why the teacher’s unions are going all in on making, and I do mean making, Democrats oppose school choice and vouchers.

    2. Actually, school choice, vouchers and charters were an idea invented by Milton Freidman as a means to prevent integration. Don’t believe me? Look it up.

      1. Of course I do not believe you.
        But your point is moot. What may have been invented in the past, it is not what is being presented today. There are charters schools that are well integrated, with many minorities on waiting lists to get in. I saw it in New Orleans. Charter schools were the best chance many of those kids had to getting out of poverty.

            1. I would say so what? To be truly color blind, I would not care if schools were integrated or not. Why should any kid be forced to be put in a low performing school in the name of integration? Cream rises to the top. It is time to stop being ashamed about it.

      2. Socialism, you were misinformed by someone poorly educated. Read Friedman’s book which was intentionally written for all ages. It is a short and fast read, one that can provide all with an education on economics. He doesn’t discriminate based on race, color or religion.

        Free to Choose.

        You can probably get a used copy for less than $10 delivered.

      3. “Actually, school choice, vouchers and charters were an idea invented by Milton Freidman . . .”

        You’re only off by about 180 years.

        Choice/vouchers were written into the Massachusetts constitution — in 1780. Choice/charters were established by New York City — in 1795; then Pennsylvania in 1802. And that’s just a small sample.

  5. I wonder if that (tribalist) “math” curriculum will include word problems like these:

    1. Calculate, in today’s dollars, the amount of money the North spent fighting a war to free the slaves.

    2. Use that figure to calculate, in today’s dollars, the amount of reparations owed by every black person in America to the decedents of those Northerners.

    3. Assume a 20% down payment, the current rate for a personal line of credit, and a seven-year payoff. Calculate the monthly reparations payments.

    Prompt: Concoct a math function to make those reparations palatable.

    1. Sam, don’t forget to factor in the expenses of police costs, court costs, prison costs, attorney fees, the cost of insurance due to all of the crime committed by a small % of a small % of the population.

      1. The black population was progressing nicely into the middle class and with the civil rights laws of the 1960s things would have been even better today if the Democrats didn’t need the black population kept beholden to the state. We all want what is best for the black people of this country, but what works best is not what the Democrats are doing for them.

        Does an open border help blacks? Do lax crime laws help blacks? Does defunding the police help blacks? Does inflation help blacks? Does caving to the teachers unions and not advancing choice help blacks?

        The difference between Democrats and conservatives is that Democrats call conservatives racist and conservatives have ideas that actually help blacks. The media supports and amplifies Hannah Jones, Al Sharpton and Joy Reid while ignoring or worse Sen Tim Scott and Clarence Thomas. Thomas Sewell is their enemy while Ibram Kendi is a god.

        1. Actually more whites receive assistance from the gov’t. So you’re wrong with your basic premise. Here’s an idea study the impacts of redlining and racist police tactics in preventing progress for people.

          1. “Actually more whites receive assistance from the gov’t”

            This must be the from bug because it demonstrates no understanding of math, statistics, logic or proper discussion.

          2. Bug Anonymous has no idea what percentages mean. Guess what genius, more whites get shot by cops, more whites get in car accidents, more whites are arrested, more whites flunk out of school, but remember, more whites pay taxes, more whites have jobs, more whites raise children that go to college, more whites are doctors, more whites are nurses, more whites more white more whites. Whites are 60% of the population while blacks are about 13% so ERGO more whites do everything. Moron.

  6. The race card angle is what the Nazis used to establish their dictatorship (“We will build the Fourth Reich on the ruins of the United States”) and the reparations angle is socialism with Chinese characteristics. Nazis + communists = Fascism. Combine that with the WHO and their plan to literally take over from Geneva the entire world population’s “health care” (unnecessary vaccines filled with biological pollutants) — all of these policies were codified in the recent 76th World Health Assembly — and you have the globalist plan in a nutshell. These people, and their running dog apologists, are the real face of darkness on planet earth.

  7. Time to END all Federal Aid to cities, colleges, states!

  8. time to BAN all laws and spending on certain groups…blacks, girls(every STEM program is GIRLS only), quota for jobs or education should be OUTLAWED

    The ONLY people I would help are poorer people….but all college applications should be OUTLAWED from knowing race, gender, etc for acceptance!

  9. Black are being used by Democrats again. The party of the KKK, Jim Crow, STD testing on black men, and urban ghettos. Democrats make promises they have no intention, nor ability to keep. Democrats are destroying the country and the absurd “establishment” sit by with their thumbs up their backsides.

    1. Blacks don’t seem to realize that Democrats have them on failed plantation to skim rescue money for Decades. after trillions spent in places like Camden NJ, their high school has 5% of kids at grade level, 60% “graduate” and even those are uneducated. But the teachers, cops, firemen, cronies, take home astounding amounts of money…FOR MORE Failure! Now Democrats are Importing more failure from central and south America!

      But STUPID Republicans play along and GIVE democrats Trillions!

      Time to cut federal government 50%…end all federal aid and loans to colleges, cities and states…let Democrats pay for their failure!

  10. The curriculum involves fantasy math that is prevalent among those who hold office in Congress. 2+2=5

    This is a crock of pure bull excrement and nothing less than indoctrination of a false narrative from Marxist origins. They can disguise it how they want but this is “second verse, same as the first.”

    This new direction of separatism is the campaign strategy du jour. “Vote for us! We give you free stuff. We cannot solve problems. We have no money left to give. Don’t worry, we’ll go to the “Getting Place” and use our magic wands and say pretty please.”

    They are aiming at the students who will soon be voters. That is aggressive.

    Half truth presented as truth is untruth.

  11. Fortunately, American students can’t do math, so they’ll likely not arrive at any clear answer.

  12. Will they be comparing the financial well-being of Africans who now live in Africa with the financial well-being of American descendants of Africans who were enslaved and brought to America? I doubt it, since we know how that will come out.

    1. PundnHead,
      That is an interesting idea.
      Unless they are homeless and even then with the various social welfare programs most of the poor in the US have it better than many 3rd world countries. I can say that as I have been to more than a few to include Afghanistan.

  13. I’ve seen some of the 1619 curriculum. It focuses on historical injustices against African Americans for slavery, the KKK, lynching, Jim Crow, etc. Implying these were purely American or Republican concepts. Yet, historically, Republicans fought against those injustices. Those were policies of, or perpetrated by, democrats. If reparations should be paid, they should be levied against the DNC.

  14. There are many steps that will be needed if the US is to be saved, but one basic step, well illustrated by this article, is to reform public education. Rather than fund public education through unavoidable tax dollars, we should still collect those taxes but use those funds to issue school vouchers to parents. Then parents would have the choice to use those vouchers either at public schools or qualified private schools. This system has been used successfully in some European countries for years. If public schools lost their monopoly and had to compete I believe they would drop this lunacy quickly.

    1. “This system has been used successfully in some European countries for years.”

      And in the U.S. since 1780.

  15. Dear Prof Turley,

    I don’t like the brag, but I went all the way through the 9th grade + night school.

    Here’s one way to figure-out reparations: PMT x ( (1 + i) n – 1 ) / i = Barack H. Obama

    *it’s not much, granted, but it’s the best I can do right now.

  16. “Democrats introduced a bill demanding $14 trillion in reparations.”

    If I remember my math correctly: $14 trillion ÷ 0 = Go to hell.

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