Retired teacher pens letter to students regarding 1619 project

Recently, Republican State Representatives Skyler Wheeler and Sandy Salmon endorsed legislation to defund all schools teaching and using the 1619 Project in their curriculum. Other states have proposed similar legislation. Such efforts seemed to be pushed due to the recent criticism from Republicans of the project. 

Waterloo native and New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones created the 1619 Project, which was published through the New York Times. The project “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative,” Hannah-Jones received the prize for commentary, as well as overall being well respected and known as a prize winning reporter covering racial injustice. 

The possible expulsion of the 1619 project in school curriculums raised a lot of concerns and frustrations within the Cedar Valley community. The headline “Leave history to the historians” surfaced in a letter to the editor in the Waterloo Courier newspapers, with a retired Hoover Middle School history teacher endorsing the Project, writing that what students learn in school should not be decided by politicians.  

Conservatives and some historians argued that the 1619 project is an inaccurate portrayal of United States history. They believe that it pushes “leftist ideologies” and rewrites history through a “racial lense,” and they do not think that taxpayers should be able to foot the bill to indoctrinate kids into thinking the project is true. 

Now retired Waterloo history teacher Denny McCabe has openly shared his concerns with the possible ban of this project. “My perspective on why conservatives oppose such teaching I think, in part, is due to the fact that they received such an incomplete American history education themselves. I believe they feel threatened with a version of history that does not conform to the more Eurocentric lessons they likely received. I believe they are unaware of the white privilege they have unwittingly accumulated, and I think their white fragility is on full display when they react so strongly and negatively to a historical perspective they don’t like. They also claim to believe this type of information causes decisiveness, not unity.” McCabe said. 

Iowa representative Skyler Wheeler opposed the 1619 project, and pushed the ban. In an email to Denny McCabe he explains how he will continue to push for the ban of the 1619 project. ¨I will continue my unyielding attacks on it (the 1619 Project) and its obfuscation of both our founding and our country. It is a racist, divisive, factually and historically inaccurate propaganda project.¨ Wheeler said. 

The bill did not make it out of the committee, but it could resurface in a different part of legislation as conservatives are still trying to push the ban. A bill passed earlier in the month, includes banning diversity training that calls the state of Iowa fundape of the bill, with it originally only pertaining to public universities and schools, now applying to state and local government agencies. 

Democratic lawmakers opposed the passing of this bill, because it’s preventing implicit bias training and learning about systematic racism within America. 

Included below is McCabe´s open letter to Iowa students:

Dear Iowa students, 

Legislators in Iowa are proposing legislation that would interfere with your teachers´ ability to provide you with a more complete version of American history. They want to punish schools that teach lessons based on The New York Times´ 1619 Project. Neither the Project’s lead author Nikole Hannah-Jones, nor The New York Times intended the work to deny the significance of 1776 in our nation’s history. The intent was to supplement, to fill gaping holes in the American narrative. Ideally the history taught in schools should be determined by credible historians and educators, not politicians. As free-thinking students, you need to not rely on any of those. Find the 1619 Project online, read the articles, listen to the podcasts. Read what the critics have to say. Even they acknowledge the roles slavery and racism have playe in our history. Ultimately, decide for yourselves, just don’t allow your state governments to censor your education.

Retired, but still trying to teach,

Mr. McCabe


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