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Editorial: Leave History to the Historians

For some reason Skyler Wheeler thinks he knows what Quad-City kids should be taught.

Or, more appropriately, what they shouldn't be taught.

Wheeler is a Republican state representative from Orange City in northwest Iowa. He’s the one who is working on his pals in the legislature to try to stop local teachers from using the New York Times’ 1619 Project in their classrooms.

Last week, a subcommittee in the Iowa House passed a measure that would impose financial penalties on school districts if they dare oppose his view of American history. The bill also seeks to stop colleges from using the project.

The 1619 Project is a work of journalism that was produced by the New York Times and led by Waterloo native Nikole Hannah-Jones. The project "aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."

The series was published a year and a half ago, and the newspaper also developed curriculum that could be used in the classroom.

Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary, and the project has been highly praised in some quarters. But it’s also been controversial. Conservatives and some historians have argued it is an inaccurate portrayal of U.S. history. And lately Republican legislators in several states are trying to stop kids from learning about it. Legislators in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and South Dakota have filed such bills in the last month, according to an article in USA Today.

This is wrong. We believe American students need to better understand the contributions Black Americans have made to this country. For much of our history, their vital role has been minimized or ignored.

We understand the controversy surrounding the project. It has its flaws, but we found wisdom in the words of Leslie M. Harris, a history professor at Northwestern University, who was a consultant on the project. Harris was critical of some aspects of the report but said overall it is a "much-needed corrective to the blindly celebratory histories that once dominated our understanding of the past…."

This view resonates with us. History d

Read entire article at Quad City Times