Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined a 20 state letter, led by Indiana, urging the Biden administration to reconsider educational proposals aimed at imposing the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), the 1619 Project, and other similar curriculum into America’s classrooms – a goal that could be accomplished through a proposed new rule by the U.S. Department of Education establishing priorities for grants in American History and Civics Education programs.
“American history, civics, and historical literacy are a crucial facet of education in schools across the state and country. Reframing that history through the flawed and harmful lens of critical race theory and the 1619 Project would be a disservice to Missouri students,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Under these proposed new priorities from the U.S. Department of Education, the federal government would decide how American history and civics are taught, injecting critical race theory in the curriculum to the detriment of thousands of students and teachers. Civics education is not about erasing our past, but instead informing our future. The Biden Administration should reject the imposition of critical race theory on the curriculum taught in Missouri and America’s schools.”
The United States Department of Education issued two proposed priorities for the American History and Civics Education programs on April 19, 2021. The first priority proposed by the Department of Education is for “projects that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning” and the second is for projects that promote “information literacy.”
The multistate letter begins, “Though the Department does not overtly refer to CRT in its priorities, it is prioritizing teaching this highly controversial ideology through the vehicle of this grant program. This is hardly what Congress intended when it authorized this program. CRT focuses how our current government mechanisms are irretrievably flawed. Its theorists posit that our Nation’s values, ideals, foundations and institutions – the things Congress intended to promote – instead produce ‘inequity’ demanding actions to modify this result. This appears to be a view shared by Professor Ibram X. Kendi and advanced through the 1619 Project. It is fair to assume this view would be advanced by a curriculum built from its project.”
Both letters take issue with the proposed priorities use of teachings of “antiracist” professor Ibram X. Kendi. The Missouri letter states, “It is not plausible to characterize Professor Kendi’s teachings—which attack the very foundations of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights—as ‘educating students about the history and principles of the Constitution of the United States, including the Bill of Rights,’ or improving ‘the quality of the teaching of American history, civics, and government in elementary schools and secondary schools, including the teaching of traditional American history.’”
Both letters, sent to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Cardona, argue that the proposed priorities don’t comport with the standards created by Congress in passing the Every Student Succeeds Act, which aim to “improve the quality of instruction in American history and civics by educating students and teachers in ‘traditional American history’ and the principles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.” The letters argue that the proposed priorities would do the opposite of what Congress ascribed in the ESSA, and would actually hurt students and teachers.
The multistate letter states, “Issues of race and discrimination are complex, but instead of teaching American history and civics, as plainly spelled out in the statute, the proposed priorities would dilute the quality of American history and civics education in America in favor of a hyper-racialized and ahistorical doctrine. They are not focused on promoting truth or a holistic understanding of American history and the ideals that the Founders used to establish our country as required by statute, but instead are being used to promote revisionist American history and principles that lead to more discrimination, not less.”
In the Missouri letter, the Attorney General’s Office states, “The proposed priorities under consideration by the U.S. Department of Education will unlawfully and unconstitutionally fund initiatives that promote racial discrimination, instead of providing civics lessons that enable students of all races and backgrounds to effectively participate in their government as part of the Constitution’s ‘We the People.’” It notes that federal law “reflects Congress’s insight that the United States of America is unique, as the first nation in history to be founded on ideals of liberty and equality under law.” And it points out that “America’s history reflects a progression in which her founding ideals ultimately triumph over any weaknesses and failures of her people.”
In addition to Missouri, attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia also joined the Indiana letter.