1619 Project Follies and 1776 Commission Hopes
Updated: Jan 15
Radical anti-American constructs developed by the media and academia are tearing apart unifying American ideals like equality, freedom, and patriotism. For our relatively new and unique country -- one not rooted in common ethnicity, religion, or other cultural tie -- America relies on these founding ideals to root us in citizenry.
When these values fall by the wayside, our national sentiment goes with it. Enter: The 1776 Commission.
Parents are imperfect people, and our country’s leaders are no different. From the Primerrily perspective, it is self-evident that our country as a whole has benefitted from imperfect people throughout history. America and her population at large are the result of past people exploring, working, leading, experimenting, fighting, and loving (again, how reminiscent of parenting!). We want this history to be contemplated and celebrated, which is why we pass this knowledge to our kids via books, songs, shows, and art.
Beginning at a young age, we apply educational primers (hey, hey Primerrily!) to prepare our kids for a lifelong journey of learning. For us, these primers include the ABCs,123s, and red-white-blue. We want to lay a basic foundation that is uplifting, sound, and constructive, to then resonate over time. Clearly, in this community we have no shortage of ideas for how to make that happen, particularly on topics relating to the red, white, and blue!
Sadly, however, it’s tough for many families to teach American history, civics, and pride without a continual stream of divisively anti-American headlines, discourse, and general media. It’s seen and heard nearly everywhere we turn. . . and “turn on.” To be clear, we cherish America’s right to free speech, including criticism and disagreement.
However, radical theories and provocative constructs made popular by anti-American / anti-Western civilization academics -- most recently, for instance, critical race theory, anti-racism education, and white fragility -- are tearing apart unifying American ideals such as freedom, patriotism, and equality. For a relatively new and unique country --
one not rooted in a common ethnicity, religion, or other cultural tie -- America relies on its founding values and ideals to root us in citizenry. When these values fall by the wayside, our national sentiment goes with it.
A culmination of this vitriolic national sentiment launched last year by The New York Times. Titled The 1619 Project, this long-form NYT initiative is supplemented with classroom curricula. It claims “that anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country” and “aims 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.” According to the 1619 Project, our country’s founding year was not 1776, but rather 1619 -- the year slavery was introduced by the British to Virginia.
Not only do we disagree with this revisionist interpretation of America’s founding, we also disagree that teaching students through “a very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective” -- per Princeton Professor and Historian James McPherson -- qualifies as education. Simply put, it’s indoctrination.
Covered in The New York Post, McPherson and a group of scholarly and politically diverse academics co-signed a letter to The New York Times about the 1619 Project authors. The City University of New York (CUNY) Professor and Historian James Oakes adds, “They’re not only ahistorical, they’re actually anti-historical.” For example, “as McPherson explains, every society has had slavery, and the British Atlantic seaboard colonies were one of the first societies to spawn an anti-slavery movement, with several voting to abolish slavery in the first years of the republic.”
Nevertheless, reverberations of the 1619 Project are summarized by The New Criterion, which writes “that ‘various public school districts, including some in Chicago’ had announced that they would supplement their curricula by distributing copies of The 1619 Project to students. [Further,] the wildly tendentious, historically dubious tenets of The 1619 Project have been insinuated into the curricula of more than 3,500 school districts across the country.”
Even younger students are being exposed -- without parental consent or awareness -- to the politically-charged negative national sentiment before the positive or even neutral perspectives have a chance to be introduced. Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow, Max Eden, writes in City Journal, “It will be up to parents to watch closely what their children are being taught and to petition their school board when schools cross the line between education and indoctrination.”
Eden also writes in defense of our beloved yet imperfect country, and in response to the ideas put forth by the 1619 Project. In City Journal, he takes from the perspective of Frederick Douglass, “the former slave who once believed that the Constitution was [pro-slavery]. After study and reflection, however, Douglass concluded, in ‘The Constitution of the United States: Is It Pro-Slavery or Anti-Slavery?’, that it was fundamentally antislavery and that ‘the intentions of the framers of the Constitution were good, not bad.’”:
[Douglass’] high regard for America’s Founding Fathers and documents, coupled
with his unmatched descriptions of the horrors of slavery and fierce denunciations of
America’s moral failures, provide the grounds for a tempered patriotism and an
appreciation of the progress our country has made toward fulfilling our Founding
. . . To understand their country, students should read America’s Founding documents
and the works of great figures like Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, and
grapple with history’s circumstantial and moral complexities—not “reframe” history to
make it fit partisan purposes. They should be taught about the moral abomination of
American slavery—but not that “slavery is our country’s very origin,” or that its legacy
is baked into all our social institutions, allegations that cannot stand up to any fair-
minded examination of American history. The themes and messages of the 1619
Project are not only historically dubious; they will also lead to deeper civic alienation.
When reading from Douglass’ perspective, it’s important to consider just who the man was. He wasn’t only a former slave; he continued on as a free man to become a famous American abolitionist and statesman. He is admired by both the political right and left. As Bari Weiss notes in Tablet Magazine, “The founders themselves planted the seeds of slavery’s destruction. And our second founding fathers--abolitionists like Frederick Douglass--made it so. America would never be perfect, but we could always strive toward building a more perfect union.”
Addressed in Primerrily Talks Race,
we explain why we are confident that a positive foundational perception of America and race-related topics is how to edify healthy, respectful, and civil behavior as kids develop. This perception is not only for the sake of our kids’ development, but also for the sake of our nation’s development, given that our kids are America’s next generation.
In response to anti-American sentiment insidiously and overtly stepping to the front of classrooms across America, the White House recently announced a federal initiative -- the 1776 Commission -- to bring a productive introduction to American civics and history back into classrooms. We view the initiative as aspiring to bring unity back into the American community.
While we support a healthy separation between federal and state educational initiatives, the National Review points out, “So long as there is a federal Department of Education with [public taxpayer funding] in school curricula, its actions, too, should aim to be constructive rather than destructive. A proper American history does not mean feeding children Parson Weems’s whitewashed just-so stories. It is, rather, what Ronald Reagan called for in his Farewell Address in 1989, an ‘informed patriotism’:
An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of
the world? . . . We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile. . . . Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.
It is to preserve that history and civic ritual that the White House administration has announced a ‘1776 Commission’ to promote patriotic education. . . Parents, of course, should be the first teachers of patriotism and the reasons why we love America and its history. So long as children are educated by the government, however, what they are taught will also be a political issue. Conservatives are overdue to enter that essential fight. We applaud the president for doing so.”
“If we can empower people to renew their own lives and communities using the ideals and tools that already exist in our country, we can create change.” -1776 Unites
A rejection of the 1619 Project is not only coming from the White House. It's coming from bipartisan organizations like 1776 Unites, which launched a curriculum earlier this year as an alternative to the discredited 1619 Project:
The curriculum, developed by civil rights leader Bob Woodson and American Enterprise Institute scholar Ian Rowe, offers lesson plans, activities, reading guides and other resources to illustrate what 1776 Unites calls a "more complete and inspiring story of the history of African-Americans in the United States."
"1776 Unites maintains a special focus on stories that celebrate black excellence, reject victimhood culture, and showcase African-Americans who have prospered by embracing America’s founding ideals," the group writes of the new curriculum.
At Primerrily, we celebrate the unimaginable significance of 1776 (similar to how we observe the significance of 1492). We also celebrate the imperfect people who made these dates ones for the history book. At the same time, we lament those who were the victims of institutional slavery, and oppression. We believe we can do some bit of justice by understanding the complexity, building on the good, and learning from the bad. As brilliantly stated by the team at 1776 Unites, “If we can empower people to renew their own lives and communities using the ideals and tools that already exist in our country, we can create change.”
If you can change a generation, you can change the world. Along with the proud majority of Americans, Primerrily is up for the task!