‘1619 Project’ head Hannah-Jones questions parents’ role in schooling

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times reporter who spearheaded the controversial “1619 Project,” questioned Sunday why parents should have a say in their children’s education amid the national debate over critical race theory.

The 1619 Project, which debuted in 2019 to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia, contends that America’s founding was predicated on a desire to preserve slavery. Despite objections to the premise by prominent historians, the series has been turned by journalism organization the Pulitzer Center into a school curriculum, which is regularly promoted by the paper.

Hannah-Jones was asked on Sunday’s edition of NBC News’ “Meet the Press” whether she intended the project for use in public school curricula or to trigger debate over the teaching of American history. 

Hannah-Jones said it was envisioned as a “work of journalism” that could be used as a “great learning tool for students.”

“Now the New York Times has an education division. The New York Times regularly turns its journalism into curriculum, as does the Pulitzer Center, who we ultimately partnered with,” she explained. “They are constantly turning works of journalism into curriculum.”

Hannah-Jones admitted that the 1619 Project had become controversial, but claimed that was the case “because people have decided to make the 1619 Project controversial.”

“I would say the governor’s race in Virginia was decided based on the success of a right-wing propaganda campaign that told white parents that they needed to fight against their children being indoctrinated as race — as being called racists,” she alleged.

Nikole Hannah-Jones argued that parents and lawmakers should leave the question of what to teach in schools up to teachers and administrators.
Nikole Hannah-Jones argued that parents and lawmakers should leave the question of what to teach in schools up to teachers and administrators.
Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times/Polaris

The addition of critical race theory to K-12 curriculums sparked furious debate at a number of school board meetings in the run-up to the Virginia election — which was won by Republican political novice Glenn Youngkin — and some states have passed legislation barring the teaching of CRT in schools. 

Hannah-Jones argued on NBC Sunday that parents and lawmakers should leave the question of what to teach in schools up to teachers and administrators. 

“So I think we should frame that question properly,” she ​said. “And I don’t really understand this idea that parents should decide what’s being taught.​”

​”I’m not a professional educator. I don’t have a degree in social studies or science​.​ ​We send our children to school because we want them to be taught by people who have expertise in the subject area. And that is not my job​,” she continued.​

Terry McAuliffe, the unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, made similar statements during his losing campaign. 

“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach​,” he said during a debate in September.​

​”​He was panned for that, but that’s just the fact,” Hannah-Jones said Sunday. “This is why we send our children to school and don’t homeschool, because these are the professional educators who have the expertise to teach social studies, to teach history, to teach science, to teach literature, and I think we should leave that to the educators.

“Yes, we should have some say, but school is not about simply confirming our worldview,” she added. “Schools should teach us to question. They should teach us how to think, not what to think​.”

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