Monday, May 31, 2021

Why Conservatives Want to Cancel the 1619 Project: Why Anti-CRT Bills Matter to Higher Education

The fight over Texas' HB 3979 bill that I've addressed in this blog over the past few weeks is currently a K-12 issue. That said, higher education should care deeply about this as it will soon migrate to higher education. This is already happening in Idaho [read: Idaho moves to ban critical race theory instruction in all public schools, including universities], as well as in the case of award-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones' who was denied tenure by the University of North Carolina Board of Regents. 

According to Adam Serwer at The Atlantic, this took place because of her viewpoints, most notably, her work on the "1619 Project." This is clearly a blow to Academic Freedom that exists to create a space in universities to be independent thinkers, scholars, and critics, a feature of liberal democracies that like a free press, help society to be informed and self-correcting.

The UNC Board of Regents disregarded this, as well as her meritoriousness.  Merit always counts in such decisions, however, Hannah-Jones' Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur genius grant weren't sufficient because key people in power do not want to address our country's deep racial divides—even if doing so promotes domestic tranquility and a virtuous society. 

They subscribe instead to the unsupportable myth that history plays no role in today's unequal outcomes, thusly necessitating a suppression of critical readings of history which is what the fight over HB 3979 is about, as Serwer thankfully also mentions below. The irony here is an inescapable contradiction that if inequality were solely an artifact of one's individual effort and ability, then why fear the truth of history?

Just as we know that the 50s gave rise to the 60s [see: "It Was The Stultifying 1950s That Provoked The 1960s Rebellions], Serwer's conclusion that moves like these are what set the stage "for the next awakening" is historically on point. And for that, we should be hopeful, grasping in a fresh way, I trust, the power of history, historical memory, and critically consciousness teachers and professors.

-Angela Valenzuela

Why Conservatives Want to Cancel the 1619 Project

Objections to the appointment of Nikole Hannah-Jones to an academic chair are the latest instance of conservatives using the state to suppress ideas they consider dangerous.

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