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Idaho Senate OKs resolution condemning ‘divisive curriculum’

February 23, 2022 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution that characterizes The New York Times’ “1619 Project” as a divisive reeducation campaign about slavery that causes shame while promoting former President Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission report aimed at “patriotic education” in schools.

The Senate on a voice vote passed the resolution that expresses the chamber’s wishes but doesn’t have the force of law.

Trump established the commission in September 2020 to rally support from white voters ahead of that November’s general election. Historians rejected its report as political propaganda. President Joe Biden, in an executive order shortly after taking office, disbanded the commission and withdrew the document.

“We all know that critical race theory and tearing down the statues and different things have taken place in other states,” Republican Sen. Steven Thayn, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said during the debate on the Senate floor. “We don’t want that to happen here.”

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Critical race theory, like the “1619 Project,” is viewed negatively in the Senate 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.

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

The resolution specifically offers the 1776 Commission report as such curriculum. The commission’s report omits much of the history of slavery in the U.S., and states 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 document 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.

Democratic Sen. David Nelson opposed the legislation, saying he believed it advocated “for censorship of what our students learn, and I cannot support that.”

Republican Sen. Jim Rice backed the measure.

“I don’t think that we’ve got any particular teachers in Idaho that are likely to be teaching some of these very specific, divisive things,” he said. “But what we do know is that it has become part of the discussion across our nation.”

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He said some areas of the nation were teaching that “people have guilt because they are of the same race as someone who did something else sometime in the past.”

“That is an exceptionally dangerous ideology,” Rice said.

Democratic Sen. Melissa Wintrow read a passage from the “1619 Project” in urging lawmakers to vote against the resolution.

She said the resolution singled out the “1619 Project” and critical race theory as being used to teach “people to be ashamed or limited by their race or ethnicity, and that simply isn’t true.”

The Idaho Senate has no Black lawmakers following the retirement of Cherie Buckner-Webb in 2020.

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