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Republican Rep. Skyler Wheeler, who sponsored the bill, provided a lengthy defense of the bill and a critical review of the 1619 Project overall.

He opened his remarks by responding to some of the thoughts shared by Democrat Rep. RasTafari Smith, who previously asked the room how many of them were taught the first slaves were brought to America in 1619.

“1526 was the first time African slaves were brought to the shores of America, not 1619,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler also addresses Smith’s concerns that he was banning something that isn’t mandated. Wheeler pointed out efforts to ban guns and abortions, even though those things are not mandated.

“We have a responsibility with taxpayer money to use it responsibly,” he said. “And I’m going to get into and make my argument about what this really is about.”

Wheeler said he has dug into the 1619 Project and done his homework on the project.

He took offense to Smith’s comparison of Wheeler’s legislation to Nazi Germany.

“Nothing in this bill that seeks to distort or seeks to remove the teaching of slavery or Jim Crow,” Wheeler said. “Things that I’ve said we need to learn about. History is about learning from your history so you don’t repeat things. To compare this to Nazi Germany to me is extremely offensive.”

The 1619 Project, Wheeler said, aims to “tear down America, not lift her up.” It divides instead of unifies and it distorts facts rather than teaches them.

“It does so as Leftist political propaganda masked as history,” Wheeler said. “It is riddled with factual and historical errors.”

It’s also refused to correct the inaccuracies because, Wheeler said, the founder of the project herself said it wasn’t intended to be a historical project, but a narrative project.

“There is no curriculum established in this bill, there’s nothing in this bill that bans the teaching of slavery, Jim Crow,” Wheeler said. “As I’ve said, both should be taught. There is nothing in this bill that changes a single social studies standard unlike a different bill that some people in here who are registered against mine have not registered against themselves.”

The 1619 Project fails from the beginning, Wheeler said.

The founder of the project, Nicole Hannah Jones, claims the colonists fought the Revolutionary War over the preservation of slavery. After criticism, she changed it to say some of the colonists fought to preserve slavery.

“There’s no mention of taxation without representation, or the deaths that were incurred from the French and Indian War, or the Stamp Act,” Wheeler said. “All of which were commonly accepted reasons for the Revolutionary War.

“Slavery was not under threat from Britain,” Wheeler said.

She also claimed slavery made America wealthy.

“It actually slowed the economic development of the south as it turns out that people who get paid to work and are treated better tend to be better economic producers as opposed to those who are forced to work for free at the crack of a whip,” Wheeler said.

Thomas Sowell has pointed out the south had one-sixth the number of factories that the north had. The north had more skilled workers, better railroads and New York had more banks than the entire confederacy.

“The Project also refuses to acknowledge that nearly 360,000 Union soldiers died to free roughly 4 million slaves,” Wheeler said. “Again, the Project is wrong on their history.”

The main argument presented in the 1619 Project is that America is inherently racist, founded on slavery, racism and bigotry.

“However, again, that simply isn’t true,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler noted that America is the only majority-white country that has elected a black president – and America did it twice.

While he and many like him did not support President Barack Obama, they would support Dr. Ben Carson, Tim Scott or Candace Owens.

“In the last 50 years, America has received over 2 million immigrants from Africa,” Wheeler said. “Now, Professor Riley asks a very important question, ‘Why would these folks be moving here if this really is a racist, evil country like the 1619 Project claims it is?’”

The 1619 Project, Wheeler added, endorses universal healthcare and socialized medicine, a minimum wage hike, opposes drug testing employees, opposes Voter ID laws, advocates for counting illegal aliens for the census and advocates for the early release of prisoners due to COVID-19.

Five historians wrote a letter to the New York Times criticizing the Project for its many errors. Dr. Arnn at Hillsdale College called the Project an “ideological campaign to undermine Americans’ attachment to our founding principles and constitution.”

The curriculum includes questions such as:

– What current financial systems reflect practices developed to support industries built on the work of enslaved people?

– How have transportation systems reinforced segregation?”

– How have policy and exclusion from government wealth-building programs limited black Americans’ opportunities to accumulate wealth?”

Wheeler said the first question assumes that current financial systems can be tied to slavery, the second assumes today’s transportation systems reinforce segregation and the third is a narrative that many in the black community despise – that black Americans need government programs to accumulate wealth.

“Madam C.J. Walker sure didn’t,” Wheeler said.

He expressed concern with a lesson plan that turns fourth-grade students into advocates for Leftist policies. Another has a “leading question” that makes definitive that 1776 was hypocrisy and another states U.S. history books are “systemically racist.”

“But, those pale in comparison to the worst and most egregious example I have found to date. In an activity to ‘extend student engagement,’ teachers should show students that they can pick-and-choose what they want to see out of documents of any sort,” Wheeler said. “’Erasure poetry,’ which, the curriculum explains, ‘can be a way of reclaiming and reshaping historical documents; they can lay bare the real purpose of the document or transform it into something wholly new. How will you highlight inequity—or envision liberation—through your erasure poem?’ As Max Eden at the Manhattan Institute points out, ‘students could, the guide suggests, erase parts of the Declaration to make it fit Hannah-Jones’s essay or amend the Thirteenth Amendment to make it harmonize with an essay arguing that mass incarceration and excessive punishment is the legacy of slavery.’

“You don’t get to rewrite history to make it do whatever you want,” Wheeler said. “That’s not how this works. But that’s exactly what the 1619 Project does and what their curriculum is seeking to do.”

Wheeler then highlighted some attacks against conservative/Republican politicians:

– Captions John C. Calhoun’s photo saying he is an influence on the modern political right

– Says the modern-day conservative movement was born out of slavery and Jim Crow

– Insinuates that voters picked Ronald Reagan because they were racist, not because of his policies

– Essentially calls the Tea Party movement of 2010 racist, not a response to increased debt and spending

– Equates Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell’s political tactics with that of Calhoun

“The Project insinuates that country music radio is racist for pulling a song off their stations, that traffic jams in the suburbs are due to racism, and that filling out Excel spreadsheets can be linked to Southern plantation management,” Wheeler said. “This is absurd.”

Wheeler asked why Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. are hardly mentioned.

“Simple,” he said. “Both believed the founding principles were the playbooks for African American’s freedom. Douglass called the Constitution a ‘glorious liberty document.’ MLK reaffirmed the principles, promises and truths in the Declaration.”

Why, Wheeler asked, weren’t Thomas Sowell, Tim Scott or Jason Riley included in the Project?

“They were largely left out because they didn’t fit the narrative,” Wheeler said.

While scholars, most of whom Wheeler said he likely wouldn’t align with politically, criticize the Project, Hannah-Jones responds to criticism not with debate, but by calling some of the specific critics “old, white men.”

“Hannah-Jones’s problem got worse when Robert Woodson of the Woodson Center recruited many black historians and scholars, such as Carol Swain and Wilfred Reilly,” Wheeler said. “Twenty-one signers of a letter from the National Association of Scholars states, ‘We call on the Pulitzer Prize Board to rescind the 2020 Prize or Commentary awarded to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her lead essay in The 1619 Project.’”

Other critics included 12 Civil War historians who criticized the Project and focused on the essay on capitalism and the economics of chattel slavery.

“These include professors from Yale, Notre Dame and Princeton,” Wheeler said. “And, to show you how broad the criticism of this project is, look no further than the World Socialist Website, which has several interviews with historians who unyieldingly denounce the Project’s claims.

“This project is about politics, not history. It’s about a narrative to drive a political agenda, not about bringing certain parts of American history to light. Want more proof? Look no further than the issue of abortion.”

Wheeler said abortion is left out of the essays and topics.

“Why?” he asked. “One could make a real argument that the system of abortion was born in racism. Margaret Sanger, the Founder of Planned Parenthood, was actually racist and wanted to cut down on the number of births coming from African Americans. Later on, the organization she founded targeted black neighborhoods.”

Black women in Iowa comprise just 3.5 percent of the population, Wheeler said. Yet 17 percent of surgical abortions were performed on them in Iowa.

“Where is the outcry for that,” he asked.

Wheeler spoke in favor of the 1776 Unites Project.

“But, when it comes to having the 1619 Project in schools as curriculum, I’ll simply share this quote from Samuel Gregg, a research director at the Acton Institute: “History curricula, however, should accurately represent facts, place them in their proper context, and draw on a range of sources. In these areas, the 1619 Project comes up short,’” Wheeler said. “We must reject revisionist history and Leftist political propaganda and move House File 222 forward.”

Author: Jacob Hall