A fifth-grade social-studies teacher in Philadelphia recently forced students to celebrate Black History Month by honoring “black communism” and Angela Davis, a communist activist and former Black Panther. The news created a stir on social media but should come as no surprise to those who have followed the radical agenda infecting every level of America’s public education system. Citizens must resist this toxic trend by combating it in their school boards, state legislatures, and children’s classrooms.
Students at William D. Kelley School were required to participate in a mock Black Power rally to “free” Davis, who was briefly jailed in the 1970s on charges of conspiracy, murder, and kidnapping, according to a report by Chris Rufo of City Journal. Pictures provided by a whistleblower show elementary students holding signs bearing slogans like “#BlackPowerMatters” and “Jail Trump, Free Angela.” In the school auditorium, children chanted about ancestral power and shouted from the stage, “Free Angela!”
Philadelphia public schools have pushed a radical agenda in other ways, too. Earlier this month, a Philadelphia teachers organization produced a video explaining the need for “antiracism” training for educators. The video states that “racism is steeped into the foundation of our country” and that the United States is “a settler colony built on white supremacy and capitalism.” The solution, according to the group’s website, is to “uproot white supremacy and plant the seeds for liberation and empowerment.” Similarly, a teacher at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy tweeted last summer about his anxiety that teachers couldn’t effectively accomplish their “equality/inclusion work” over Zoom classes because they didn’t know who might overhear them. “If we are engaged in the messy work of destabilizing a kids [sic] racism or homophobia or transphobia — how much do we want their classmates’ parents piling on?” he wrote.
This race-centered approach to education stretches beyond Philadelphia. Efforts like the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which dates America’s founding to the arrival of the first slave ship in Virginia, have spread this ideology nationwide. The project seeks to “reframe” American history through the lens of slavery, teaching readers to reject our founding and principles as racist and fraudulent. The Pulitzer Center has converted the material into a K‑12 history curriculum, which has been adopted by more than 4,500 teachers across the country, according to its annual report.
Such views of American history are based on Critical Race Theory, which uses Marxist techniques to divide Americans and pit them against one another, framing some as oppressors and others as oppressed. It judges people not by their individual abilities, talents, and accomplishments but by physical characteristics. It breeds discord among Americans by stoking resentments among the groups, making them ripe for manipulation. For far too long, we have let our public schools instill this worldview into the next generation. Black students are told they are oppressed; white students are told they are inherently racist and must “do the work” of antiracism, and yet we are confused why so many America’s youth suffer from mental health issues. Our schools teach students to embrace communism, reject capitalism, and hate America, and then we wonder why young people put matches to American flags and chant “burn it down” in the streets of Washington, D.C. — something that actually happened earlier this month, according to journalist Andy Ngo.
Teaching the full story of American history — the glorious and the shameful — is noble. Highlighting the struggles and accomplishments of black Americans is a worthy goal. Letting students wrestle with the ugly episodes in our history and trusting them to come to thoughtful conclusions is important. This is not what is accomplished through lesson plans that rewrite reality, strip history of its complexity, and advance an agenda instead of the truth. Concerned citizens must push back.
With many public schools continuing to hold classes virtually, parents have an unprecedented opportunity to observe what their children are being taught and, if they object, take advantage of school choice. State legislatures and school boards must reject efforts to adopt critical race theory curricula in their school districts — lawmakers in five states have already introduced bills to defund schools that teach the 1619 Project. Likewise scholars, regardless of race or political affiliation, must refute, debunk, and offer an alternative to the New York Times’ screed. To this end, the 1620 Project of the National Association of Scholars, 1776 Unites, and the 1776 Commission (to which several Hillsdale College faculty contributed) have made a good start.
Abraham Lincoln noted, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Those who love this nation must expose identity politics as the poison it is and teach young people the truth of America’s founding. A grassroots movement got us to this point and it will take a grassroots movement to get us out.
Madeline Peltzer is a senior studying politics. She is the News Editor of the Collegian.