Attempt to slip anti-Black history curriculum into bill abortedBy Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / April 27, 2023
This is how what should have been nothing more than an innocent local bill in the Republican-led N.C. House, purported to change “the manner in which appointments are made to the Washington-Warren Airport Authority…,” almost became a backdoor, surreptitious way to introduce an anti-Black history social studies lesson plan into a school system’s curriculum without even that local school board knowing it.
The attempt to pull this off was ultimately aborted, but it shows how the current focus of the conservative right-wing isn’t just how to outlaw the proper and accurate teaching of American and North Carolina racial history in the state’s classrooms, but also begin to replace it.
And now that Republicans can override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, there’s nothing to stop them from mandating this sanitized social studies curriculum for every school across the state, observers warn.
In an April 20th, 2023 story by Greg Childress in N.C. Newsline, he reported how the Beaufort County School Board was “surprised” by “a lawmaker’s attempt to authorize [their] use of a controversial social studies curriculum developed by conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan . . ..”
Beaufort County Schools Supt. Matthew Cheeseman told how he had received a call April 19th “…alerting him that the provision was tucked inside House Bill 464…,” which originally dealt with changing how members of the Washington-Warren Airport Authority are appointed.”
According to Cheeseman, the full Beaufort County School Board “… had never discussed it, never once voted on it, never once asked for it.”
A review of the history of the bill online shows it was filed March 23rd by Republican House Deputy Majority Whip Rep. Keith Kidwell, who represents Beaufort, Dare, Hyde and Pamlico counties.
Neither the original version of HB 464, nor its first edition, published on March 27th, mentioned anything about what’s formally known as “the Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum”.
That controversial plan of study – currently not approved by the N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction – evolved out of former Pres. Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission, which was created to counter Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project about the history of American slavery.
Released in 2021, the Hillsdale College 1776 Curriculum touts itself as teaching “…the truth of American history and to cultivate in students the knowledge and virtue necessary to live good lives as citizens.”
“Our curriculum was created by teachers and professors — not activists, not journalists, not bureaucrats,” says Dr. Kathleen O’Toole, assistant provost for K-12 education at Hillsdale College. “It comes from years of studying America, its history, and its founding principles, not some slap-dash journalistic scheme to achieve a partisan political end through students. It is a truly American education.”
Greg Childress’ story states, however, that the Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum “…teaches that civil rights laws outlawing discrimination in public places may violate the U.S. Constitution. It also downplays the extent to which the nation’s founders supported slavery.”
Childress’ story continued that “…there was a conversation about the curriculum between a board member and bill sponsor Rep. Keith Kidwell, [who] said there’s a group in the district that has lobbied the board to adopt the curriculum.”
According to the 2020 U.S. Census, more than 22 percent of Beaufort County’s population is Black.
An examination of the second edition of HB 464 shows the Hillsdale 1776 provision was added on March 27th, changing the measure to “An act to alter the manner in which appointments are made to the Washington-Warren Airport Authority and to authorize the Beaufort County Schools to teach the Hillsdale College Curriculum.”
At the end of the bill’s language in Section 2 is the language, ‘The local board of education of Beaufort County Schools is authorized to use the Hillsdale College K-12 Curriculum in lieu of requirements of Part 1 of Article 8 of Chapter 115C of the General Statues.”
The very last sentence of the bill is Section 3 stated, “This act is effective when it becomes law,” which meant that as soon as the N.C. General Assembly ratified the measure, Hillsdale’s 1776 anti-Black history curriculum would be legal to teach in Beaufort County Schools, but something happened.
Apparently, the Beaufort County Education Board didn’t appreciate being used as a guinea pig, and Rep. Kidwell ultimately removed the Hillsdale 1776 curriculum provision before it went to the state Senate.
That’s where Childress’ story reveals that Kidwell “…said authorization for Beaufort County Schools and other districts to use the curriculum would be revisited later.”
“I thought it was going to be a pretty straightforward thing, but I’ve had a bunch of other counties express interest and we’ll be readdressing that at a future date,” Kidwell said during [the April 19th] House session,” Childress reported.
By law, it is the job of the N.C. State Board of Education to “…adopt a plan of education and a standard course of study as provided in G.S. 115C-12(9c) for the public schools of the State.” It is the job of the state superintendent to carry out that mandate.
But North Carolina’s current state superintendent is a Republican, Catherine Truitt, and she has already demonstrated resistance to following the state Board of Education’s mandates she disagrees with.
According to Justin Parameter, a Charlotte educator and the author of the Notes from a Chalkboard blog, “…there’s a good chance this Trump-inspired, whitewashed version of American history will end up on desks in Beaufort County, and there’s no reason to think other counties won’t follow suit.”