McConnell says he's 'concerned' schools are denigrating American historical events

Professors slam critical race theory opponents

Academic argues critical race theory is being used by Republicans as a political tool to help win 2022 midterm election

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday says he’s “concerned” about teachers trying to “denigrate” historical events in U.S. history, as some schools are catching heat for teaching critical race theory curriculum. 

McConnell, R-Ky., said, however, he doesn’t think the government should prescribe what is taught in classrooms, but schools should be open to hearing input from the public on what’s appropriate. 

“I am concerned about efforts to kind of downplay significant items in American history have been extremely important,” McConnell told reporters Wednesday at an event in Shelbyville, Ky.  

McConnell’s comments come as Republicans have been campaigning hard against critical race theory amid complaints from outspoken parents that schools are teaching children to feel bad about being White. 

Bringing “balance” in the curriculum to express differing views is not necessarily bad, but teachers shouldn’t downplay significant dates in history like 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed, McConnell said. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., Monday, April 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

“I think trying to completely denigrate and downgrade American historical moments like 1776, 1787 [and] 1965 –  critical moments – is a mistake,” McConnell said. “But I don’t think the government’s any better at prescribing what ought to be taught, than the universities themselves, but they ought to be open to criticism about what they’re doing.”

McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans have been outspoken in the past about a new Biden adminstration grant proposal in K-12 schools to promote more “culturally responsive teaching and learning.” The proposed guidelines for the minor grant program suggest teaching the 1619 Project as one positive example. 

“Americans do not need or want their tax dollars diverted from promoting the principles that unite our nation toward promoting radical ideologies meant to divide us,” McConnell wrote to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in April.

On Wednesday, McConnell again raised his concerns about The New York Times’ 1619 project that examined the long-term consequences of slavery in America. It was released in 2019 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of enslaved Africans in colonial Virginia in 1619.

McConnell took issues with The Times’ associating slavery in 1619 “as something uniquely American.”

“There was a lot of slavery going on around the world in the early 1600s,” McConnell said Wednesday. “We fought the Civil War in order to put our original sin behind us. We passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 in order to further enfranchise minorities in our country. It’s been a long arc of trying to improve race relations in this country.”

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