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Well, I would say the governor’s race in Virginia was decided based on the success of a right-wing propaganda campaign that told white parents that they needed to fight against their children being indoctrinated as race — as being called racists. But that was a propaganda campaign. And there are a lot of Black parents in Virginia. There are a lot of Latino parents in Virginia. And they were not being featured in that coverage. And what they wanted for their kids’ education, which is more teaching about race, more teaching about the history of racism, seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. So I think we should frame that question properly. And I don’t really understand this idea that parents should decide what’s being taught. I’m not a professional educator. I don’t have a degree in social studies or science. We send our children to school because we want them to be taught by people who have an expertise in the subject area. And that is not my job. When the, when the governor or the candidate said that he didn’t think parents should be deciding what’s being taught in school, he was panned for that. But that’s just the fact. This is why we send our children to school and don’t homeschool, because these are the professional educators who have the expertise to teach social studies, to teach history, to teach science, to teach literature. And I think we should leave that to the educators. Yes, we should have some say. But school is not about simply confirming our world view. Schools should teach us to question. They should teach us how to think, not what to think.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, journalist and founder of The 1619 Project, on “Meet the Press,” Dec. 26, 2021
Nikole Hannah-Jones has once again inserted herself into the middle of the debate over what should be taught, and who should decide what should be taught, in American public schools. As she is continually rewarded with such a pride of place in this debate, I can’t help but ask why her opinion should matter more than mine, or anyone else’s. Helpfully, she explains that white parents were duped by a propaganda campaign related to the Virginia governor’s race. One might logically ask, “How can such easily fooled parents be allowed to shape the curricula used to educate their children or other people’s children?” On the other hand, Hannah-Jones seems to be implying that the opinions of Black and Latino parents, who supposedly want more teaching about race in school, should be taken into account. While some parents may want more focus on race, there is evidence to suggest that parents were troubled by Fairfax County’s elimination of merit-based, race-blind admission at Thomas Jefferson High School and the state’s plans to eliminate advanced math programs.
Hannah-Jones also professes to believe that no actual information is or should be imparted in school, since the point of school is only to teach how to think. But then why did she and her colleagues at The New York Times dedicate a special issue of The New York Times Magazine to The 1619 Project, with the stated aim:
… to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year. Doing so requires us to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country.
The use of the word “requires” in that reframing effort certainly sounds like The New York Times intended the project to set us all straight. Likely realizing that such a re-educational effort would be difficult, the Times made sure to target a young and impressionable audience by launching a 1619 Project curriculum in U.S. schools, in partnership with the Pulitzer Center. Now that the Times has disseminated 1619 Project curriculum throughout schools, thus formulating the questions for teachers and students to ask, Hannah-Jones wants to leave it to the professional educators to teach history. If these teachers were so knowledgeable and qualified, why was The 1619 Project necessary at all? Hannah-Jones has an answer to that question too:
The problem is that our teacher preparation programs are not equipping educators with the knowledge that they need to teach this history better. When you look at the survey by Teaching Tolerance, they found that about half, or slightly more than half of American educators say they don’t feel equipped to teach about slavery. And they really struggle to teach about slavery.
To provide that answer with more context, it’s important to go back to the question as it was set up by Chuck Todd, “Meet the Press” moderator:
CHUCK TODD: When you look at our public schools, eight in ten public school teachers are white. Yet, half of the public school students are students of color. How do we improve that aspect of education in America?
NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: So I don’t think that, you know, we have to have — we should definitely have more Black and Latino educators because that is what our country looks like. But I don’t think you have to be Black or Latino in order to teach a more accurate history.
How should we think about what Hannah-Jones says? I think that Nikole Hannah-Jones doesn’t think much of so-called “white people.” It sounds like she doesn’t think much of white teachers either, despite her assurances that all parents should trust them with the essential task of educating their children. Hannah-Jones has succeeded in encouraging me to question — to question her ulterior motives. I don’t think she wants to get at “the unvarnished truth.” I think she wants revenge.Published in