Since Americans’ mistrust of the news media keeps getting stronger, it’s a safe bet that they’d be pretty upset to find out that one major news organization is playing a bigger and bigger role in shaping their childen’s education. And they could well become livid if they learned that this media influence in the schools is growing even as scholars in the relevant field are concluding that much of the material being propagated is bunk.
Yet that’s exactly what’s been happening with The New York Times‘ 1619 Project. As I reported in a post last year, the project, named after the year the first black African slaves were brought to North America, seeks to [its words] “reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.” The Times‘ reason for undertaking this effort? Its conclusion that “our story” as a nation hasn’t been told “truthfully.”
As I explained last year, the big problem with the 1619 Project isn’t that reconsideration of any aspect of U.S. history (or any history) should be beyond the pale, but that a news organization like The Times has no qualifications to undertake this task. Even more troubling: The Times lately has endorsed the view that it should act like a news organization with a substantive agenda, or several of them. And one of them is writing “about race and class in a deeper way than we have in years” because “America [has] become so divided by Donald Trump.”
Now confirmation has just emerged making clear that this bias has significantly infected the 1619 Project, and it comes not only from the ranks of America’s academic historians, but from historians with decidedly progressive views. Their case was summarized (at length) by Sean Wilentz of Princeton University, who concluded in a piece in The Atlantic (itself a pretty progressive publication) that although the role of slavery and racism in American history “remains too little understood by the general public,” The Times in many cases sought to fill the gap “through falsehoods, distortions, and significant omissions.”
What’s arguably worse, as Wilentz’ account makes clear, The Times not only blithely brushed off all of the historians’ critique. It doubled down on its propagandizing.
And here’s what’s clearly worse: The paper’s efforts to introduce this shoddy excuse for scholarship into school curricula have been succeeding. According to this report, 1619 Project materials are now being used or will soon in school systems in Chicago; Newark, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; and Buffalo, New York. A New York City school is teaching with the Project as well, And The Times is working with an important ally – the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which has produced a variety of “curricular resources,” including “a reading guide for the issue, activities to engage students, and more.
It’s bad enough that American journalism keeps spewing out Fake News. It now needs to be spreading Fake History? And the nation’s schools need to be swallowing it?