PHOENIX – In response to the news that the Balsz School District in Phoenix plans to implement The 1619 Project curriculum to its elementary students, two Arizona State representatives are calling for reconsideration of the decision by school officials.
Reps. Mark Finchem and John Fillmore sent letters to the District and to Arizona State University in which the two note their concerns “over efforts to teach curriculum derived from the highly-controversial and disputed history presented by the New York Times’ The 1619 Project. The two representatives argue that the curriculum “has been widely condemned for promoting a phony, revisionist timeline and narrative of United States history and the nation’s founding principles.”
Finchem and Fillmore responded to an article in the Arizona Republic on the District’s plans and Lois Brown, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Arizona State University, who is promoting the project.
According to the Arizona Republic, the District has begun a “professional development program for its educators dedicated to The 1619 Project and an associated curriculum.”
“We’re trying to put context to what it means to be American,” Arleen Kennedy, superintendent of the Balsz School District, told the Arizona Republic. “African Americans were not given a plane ticket to come to America. We’re the only race of people who did not come to America by choice. And you cannot keep stepping away from that.”
“Every time an assertion of the writers of The 1619 Project was scrutinized closely, we found that their statements were more than incorrect, they promoted a false narrative,” Finchem said in a press release. “I am happy to respond to any assertion that is in that so-called curriculum that the School Board and the University might think factual. John Adams wrote ‘Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other’. The foundation of our government, and our civic lives, is a factual understanding of American history.”
It is undisputed that The 1619 Project, a product of the New York Times Magazine, is a work of fiction often times presented as historical fact. In fact, Nikole Hannah-Jones, the curator of the Project and author of the lead essay won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2020.
The Heritage Foundation describes the work as a “political project riddled with factual errors and its theories on capitalism should not be conflated as an accurate historical account.”
According to the Foundation, the Times sold out its initial print run and then raised funds to publish an additional 200,000 copies for free distribution to schools and community organizations. The Pulitzer Center has not released official numbers regarding school districts that have adopted The 1619 Project curriculum, but a May 2020 update noted that 4,500 classrooms have used the materials, with five school systems—Buffalo, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Washington, DC; Wilmington, Delaware; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina—implementing it “at broad scale.”