ACLU of Iowa Objects to Proposed 1619 Project Ban in Schools

Affiliate: ACLU of Iowa
February 11, 2021 6:30 am


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This statement can be attributed to Mark Stringer, ACLU of Iowa Executive Director:

“The ACLU of Iowa is strongly opposed to House File 222, which bans K-12 public schools, community colleges, and state universities from using ‘any United States history curriculum that in whole or in part is derived” from the 1619 Project.’ Schools that do so would lose a portion of their state funding.

This bill is an incredibly harmful government attempt at censorship, with the goal of shutting down ideas and preventing students from being exposed to an important discussion on the impact and legacy of slavery in our country.

Banning discussion of the 1619 Project is an attempt to whitewash Iowa and national history and an attempt to shut down the voices who have been directly impacted by slavery. There’s an old saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Now is the time to acknowledge our history, learn its lessons, and listen—especially to people whose ideas and histories have historically been underrepresented. All Iowa children benefit from learning the facts of our country’s history.

It’s especially important that this work be discussed in Iowa, since the 1619 Project is a New York Times Pulitzer-Prize winning series led by a Black woman from Waterloo. Nikole Hannah-Jones weaves her own family and Iowa history into the story, making this very appropriate for discussion with Iowa students.

It’s also important to note that while the ban on the 1619 Project is getting the most attention, this bill also bans ‘any similarly developed curriculum’ and cuts funding to any school that violates that.

That incredibly vague term—’any similarly developed curriculum’—could prevent school boards from approving the teaching of any history at all, for risk that a politician in Des Moines would object to the perspectives it highlights or the stories it tells. Our Department of Education, school boards, and teachers should be free to work together to develop the age-appropriate curricula that best help children learn and become thoughtful and engaged citizens and members of our communities. The Legislature should stick to its role in establishing minimum curricular requirements.

We also have grave concerns about the direct infringement of First Amendment academic freedom at the college and university level. The legislature has no role in dictating the content of research, study, thought, writing, or teaching of adults by adults at the university level. This is a serious attack on academic freedom at our institutions of higher learning. At a time when free speech on campus has been much-discussed, it makes no sense to advance a bill that actually shuts down free speech on the 1619 Project and “any similarly developed curriculum.

This legislation has caused harm simply by being introduced and sending the message to our young people that their histories and voices don’t matter. Legislators should reject that message in the strongest terms and not advance this bill.”

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