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Idaho House OKs resolution condemning 'divisive curriculum'

The purpose of the resolution is to “create awareness of an alternate history curriculum that should be evaluated by school districts in Idaho.”
A new science classroom at Fremont Middle School is seen on Aug. 13, 2019. The classroom was constructed as part of a $5.5 expansion project at the school.

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho House on Tuesday approved a resolution that characterizes The New York Times’ “1619 Project” as a divisive reeducation campaign about slavery that causes shame.

The resolution approved on a 54-10 vote also promotes former President Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission aimed at “patriotic education” in schools that historians have rejected as political propaganda.

No Democrats supported the resolution. The Idaho Senate approved the resolution last month. The resolution doesn't have the force of law, but expresses the wishes of lawmakers.

Trump established the commission in September 2020 to rally support ahead of that November’s general election. President Joe Biden in an executive order shortly after taking office disbanded the commission and withdrew its report.

The purpose of the resolution is to “create awareness of an alternate history curriculum that should be evaluated by school districts in Idaho.”

“I don’t think we’re talking about, here, erasing past, or picking a particular past,” said Republican Rep. Jason Monks, who supported the resolution. “But we want it to be a fair and balanced approach so it’s not just about, ‘Let’s look for all the faults of the founders of this country to show that they’re real people,’ but to show their accomplishments.”

Opponents said the resolution sought to downplay difficult aspects of U.S. history. Critical race theory, like the “1619 Project,” is viewed negatively in the resolution. Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. The “1619 Project” includes in its title the first year a slave ship arrived in the American colonies.

“I think what's happening here, and around the country, I think that when certain historical facts are presented to people, some people feel bad on a moral level,” said Democratic Rep. Chris Mathias, the Legislature's only Black lawmaker. “But then I think they are misconstruing that feeling as someone else's malicious intent. And this resolution, I think, re-enforces that tendency.”

The resolution specifically offers the 1776 Commission report as possible curriculum. The commission’s report omits much of the history of slavery in the U.S., and says that the “movement to abolish slavery that first began in the United States led the way in bringing about the end of legal slavery.”

The report also parrots some right-wing talking points, notably about higher education. “Colleges peddle resentment and contempt for American principles and history alike, in the process weakening attachment to our shared heritage,” the document states.

Overall, the commission glorifies the country’s founders, plays down America’s role in slavery, condemns the rise of progressive politics and argues that the civil rights movement ran afoul of the “lofty ideals” espoused by the Founding Fathers.

Historians widely panned the report, saying it offers a false and outdated version of American history that ignores decades of research.

A concurrent resolution can be approved by both chambers but doesn’t go to the governor.

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