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Thursday, January 20, 2022

The bill proposed a new way of teaching history. It misunderstood history.

Amid a flurry of bills across the country to ban the teaching of critical racial theory in schools, one such proposal in Virginia stood out.

The bill, introduced by Republican Delegate Ren Williams, had a glaring error: Among the concepts that school boards were supposed to provide for students to understand was “the first discussion between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.”

But as scientists Colleagues of Mr. Williams in the House of Delegates and others on social media noted that the debate was not between Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, an abolitionist, but between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, a Democratic senator from Illinois.

“The blunder in this bill points to the need for scholars and educators, not legislators/politicians, to determine what students at each level learn in the classroom,” Caroline Janney, professor of Civil War history at the University of Virginia in the United States. Charlottesville, the email says.

On Friday, Addison Merriman, a spokesman for Mr. Williams, released a statement from the state legislature’s department claiming responsibility for the error.

The error was introduced at a “draft level after receiving a historically accurate request from the office of Delegate Ren Williams,” according to the unit, which described itself as an impartial government agency that drafts, edits, and publishes “thousands of bills.” for the General Assembly every session.

Mr. Merriman did not respond to additional questions about whether historians were consulted about the legislation or concerns that the proposal might be contrary to the First Amendment. (Parts of that bill, such as the section that directs school boards not to “teach or include in any course or class any divisive concept,” have been criticized as being overbroad and could infringe on the freedom of speech of students and teachers.)

Instead, he referred to statements he and Mr. Williams had made on Townhall, a conservative website. Mr. Merriman told Townhall that Mr. Williams had introduced an “anti-discrimination bill” that correctly referred to the Lincoln-Douglas debate.

Lincoln and Douglas met seven times in 1858 when Lincoln, a Republican, challenged Douglas to the Senate. Lincoln lost the election, but the debate between the two brilliant orators rocked the country, drew attention to the bitter controversy over slavery, and brought Lincoln national prominence.

Mr Williams told Townhall he was “disappointed” by the mistake.

“I have very high standards for my office and my service to my constituents and the Commonwealth,” he said.

“I believe it was an honest mistake,” he added, “and I don’t blame the legislature for that.”

The confusion was reminiscent of statements by President Donald J. Trump on the first day of Black History Month in 2017 in which he referred to Douglas in the present tense, leading some critics to conclude that he believed the abolitionist who died in 1895 was still alive. .

“Frederick Douglass is an example of someone who has done an amazing job and is getting more and more recognition as I see it,” he said.

The mistake should not distract the public from the general content of the bill, which would prevent conversations about the racial history of the United States outside the classroom, said Lara Schwartz, professor of government at the American University School of Public Affairs in Washington.

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“If this so-called controversy bill became law, all students in Virginia would be worse off for it, and not knowing our history would be more than just a sad punchline — it would be more of a norm,” she said in an email.

Critical race theory, an advanced academic concept that was not usually introduced until college, is not part of schooling in Virginia. But during a statewide election race last year, Williams, 33, a lawyer who handled Trump’s failed attempts to overturn the Wisconsin election, said he would ban it from schools if he wins.

The bill, the first introduced by Mr. Williams, is before the committee and is due to pass both the House of Delegates and the Senate, where the Democrats have a narrow majority.

The legislation prohibits school boards or educators from teaching “any divisive concept”, encouraging students to become involved in political activities or “promoting public policy”, or employing equity and diversity consultants.

The wording of the law “prohibits teachers from helping students understand the continuing role of racism in the development of American institutions and culture,” said James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, which represents more than 11,500 historians. “It has a chilling effect that makes teachers wary of teaching accurate American history.”

He said the bill follows the same pattern as laws passed in more than 30 other states that seek to ban or restrict the teaching of “divisive concepts” about race and racism in classrooms.

Professor Schwartz said that “the fact that there is a major factual error in this bill has amused a lot of people.”

She added, “But it’s a distraction from an issue that isn’t funny at all: a wave of government legislation that has the effect and intent of discouraging the important conversations that teachers and students should have in their classrooms.”

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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