On April 19 I testified before the Missouri House of Representatives General Laws Committee. I was surprised at how little some committee members knew about the highly controversial 1619 Project being pushed by the New York Times. The 1619 Project teaches children that America was not founded in 1776, but rather in 1619 when a group of slaves (historians dispute they were slaves) arrived to North America.
The 1619 Project has been roundly criticized by liberal American historians for a multitude of gross inaccuracies. The Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, a Democrat who supported the impeachment of President Donald Trump, has been among the harshest critics. Others include Brown University’s Gordon Wood, considered a preeminent historian of the American Revolution and Princeton’s James McPherson, the nation’s most highly regarded historian on the Civil War.
Despite widespread criticism, many school districts are starting to use the 1619 Project in their history curriculum (Kansas City for one). Rewriting, or destroying, a nation’s history is a characteristic of Marxist ideology. “Take away a nation’s history and it is more easily persuaded,” stated Karl Marx.
The 1619 Project comes along just as “critical race theory” (CRT) invades public schools. Carol Swain, the former (black) professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, offers a definition of CRT: “Critical race theory is an analytical framework to analyze institutions and culture. Its purpose is to divide the world into white oppressors and non-white victims. Instead of traditional forms of knowledge, it holds up personal narratives of marginalized minority ‘victim’ groups (blacks, Hispanics, Asians) as evidence (considered irrefutably by its nature) of the dishonesty of their mostly white heterosexual oppressors.” This explains the tearful reaction a St. Louis mother expressed while testifying before the General Laws Committee, April 19: “My little boy came home from school and said, ‘Momma, why am I a racist?’” The room sat in stunned silence.
Meanwhile, the homosexual lifestyle – along with transgenderism – is extolled in public schools. Some Missouri public school systems are building restrooms that must be shared by both sexes. We are not far from having men sharing locker rooms with girls – and competing against them in athletics. When State Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, introduced a bill that would prohibit men from competing with women in school sports, transgendered people supported by the Kansas City and St. Louis Chambers of Commerce packed the committee hearing room in opposition. Sadly, Basye’s bill is unlikely to pass this session.
All this is happening during a pandemic that has forced children into virtual classes at home. This has robbed them of their friends and extra-curricular activities. Suicides among Missouri children are rising.
Jesus talked about taking proper care of children, warning against causing them to sin (Matt 18). I think about how churches hold ceremonies dedicating our new born to the Lord. Yet, we turn around and subject them to these sinful endeavors in government schools largely because there has been no alternative – until now.
While profoundly dangerous curriculum issues persist, the Missouri General Assembly, after more than a decade of fighting with teacher unions and liberal school superintendents, has finally acted. It recently passed House Bill 349, creating “Empowerment Scholarship Accounts” (ESAs). This school choice bill allows students to receive scholarships from non-profit organizations for private – even religious – school tuition or related expenses, including those for homeschooling. Donors to the ESA program would get a state tax credit of up to 50 percent of the amount given.
The legislation affects only students in charter counties or cities with more than 30,000 people. The amount for school transportation will be increased as a means of compromising with rural districts traditionally opposed to ESAs.
“This is a bill that is good for kids. It provides another option,” said Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate.
Southern Baptists have often been split on the issue of school choice. Public school supporters believe our Christian witness is needed in schools. Churches are filled with public school teachers, who are loved and supported. Opponents have expressed concerns about government “strings” being attached to any school choice measure, fearing it could force religious schools to compromise their faith. But ESAs do not do that. The money donated does not go to the government, but to a non-profit administrator, who awards the scholarships and allows the donor to receive a tax credit.
“Year after year, I’ve seen this bill die and to finally get it across the finish line it’s personally a proud moment,” said House sponsor State Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters. It is an even more important moment for Missouri parents and their children.