Can Critical Race Theory and Patriotism Coexist in Classrooms?

Historians in the News
tags: curriculum, culture war, teaching history, critical race theory

This story about social studies was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.

As Chris Tims, a high school teacher in Waterloo, Iowa, sees it, history education is about teaching students to synthesize diverse perspectives on the nation’s complicated past.

It’s why Tims includes articles from "The 1619 Project" — a New York Times look at the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans — in the curricula for his classes.

“You can’t tell the whole story of the United States without telling the story of slavery or discussing the Black experience,” said Tims, who teaches courses on U.S. and African American history.

But Iowa state Rep. Skyler Wheeler, a conservative, has a different view on the Pulitzer Prize-winning project, which has been expanded to include reading guides and lesson plans. To Wheeler, one of several state lawmakers around the country trying to ban "The 1619 Project," the resources are dangerous and divisive — “leftist political propaganda masquerading as history,” as he put it at a recent hearing.

“'The 1619 Project' seeks to tear down America, not lift her up,” he said.

Such disagreements are hardly new. Americans have been arguing over what to teach children about U.S. history and civics since at least Reconstruction, the turbulent period that followed the Civil War. Some call this teaching conflict — now more than a century old — the “social studies wars.”

But as the nation has splintered along political and geographic lines, the fights have intensified, compounding the challenges facing social studies, a set of subjects including civics, history and political science that has long been starved for classroom time and resources.

Now, a group of prominent academics and educators is pitching what they hope will be a way forward for the field. Their “Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy,” which calls for a massive federal investment in history and civics, is an attempt to reach a consensus on the key questions teachers should tackle. Instead of standards and curricula, it offers seven themes, six “core pedagogical principles,” and five design challenges, all aimed at helping educators develop customized curricula and lesson plans.

Already, though, the roadmap is proving to be a political Rorschach test, with liberals and conservatives seeing opposite threats in its contours. To conservatives, the framework is a “Trojan horse” for a “woke” federal curriculum; to liberals, it’s a license to schools to teach any version of history they like.

Read entire article at NBC News

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