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Historical Association Can’t Keep Facts Straight In Attacking ‘Curriculum That Celebrates American Patriotism’

When questioned by The Federalist, the American Historical Association’s director could not substantiate claims that America-positive history is racist.


This week, the American Historical Association’s director couldn’t back up accusations NBC News attributed to AHA of racism and historical inaccuracy in a K-12 American history curriculum. When attempting to do so Monday, AHA Executive Director James Grossman repeatedly mixed up the facts.

On July 20, NBC News’ Tyler Kingkade published an article slamming K-12 “curriculum that celebrates American patriotism” published by Hillsdale College, called “The 1776 Curriculum.” Hillsdale is a Christian liberal arts college known for its intellectual support of American founding ideals.

One of its free K-12 resources is the “1776 Curriculum.” It covers American history, government, and civics. Several units were released in 2021 and 2022, and the remaining units are scheduled for release this year.

“Educators and liberal-leaning parents object to Hillsdale’s curriculum, saying it inserts a right-wing worldview into K-12 schools,” the NBC article sock-puppets. “The American Historical Association has accused the 1776 Curriculum of downplaying racism, the Great Migration and the power of the Ku Klux Klan.”

The article next quotes Grossman: “What they’ve done is they’ve simply left stuff out in an attempt to shape a vision of patriotism. What they also are trying to do is replace an approach to teaching that teaches students how to think with an approach that teaches the students what to think.”

No Evidence to Back Racially Charged Claims

Yet in an email exchange Monday, Grossman could not substantiate any of these criticisms of the “1776 Curriculum.” Nor could he cite any part of the curriculum to substantiate these allegations of educational and moral malfeasance.

Grossman provided three AHA links to substantiate NBC’s claim attributed to his organization that “the 1776 Curriculum downplay[s] racism, the Great Migration and the power of the Ku Klux Klan.” Yet none of those resources mentions the Great Migration or the KKK. Some do allege there’s not enough about racism in the “1776 Report” — an entirely different document than the “1776 Curriculum.” In fact, all of the links concern the report and say nothing about the curriculum.

“The 1776 Report” is a Donald Trump administration document. It was produced by an 18-member commission that included two Hillsdale professors, President Larry Arnn and graduate school Dean Matthew Spalding. It is not a curriculum. It is not the “1776 Curriculum” the NBC article uses AHA to lambast.

“I suspect that the reporter was referring to statements that I made with regard to the 1776 Report, which provided the starting point for the 1776 curriculum,” Grossman wrote to The Federalist in his very first response (emphasis original). Then he went on to do the same thing, criticizing the report when asked about the curriculum the NBC report uses AHA to disparage.

“We repeat over and over that they are not the same,” said Hillsdale spokeswoman Emily Davis. She referred The Federalist to a public FAQ that states, “No formal connection exists between the former president’s 1776 Commission or ‘The 1776 Report’ and The Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum. The foundation of The Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum predates the 1776 Commission by decades and represents a culmination of years of forming and honing curricula at Hillsdale College and its affiliated K-12 schools. The Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum is mainly the product of this work and the insights of actual teachers in Hillsdale Member Schools.”

The curriculum lists the “1776 Report” as a resource and quotes a small portion in a teacher resources section.

Conflating Two Different Documents with a Similar Name

The Federalist asked Grossman “how the NBC reporter could have got those two criticisms from the AHA sources you suggested if those sources don’t actually include two of the three criticisms he listed? Are those three items actually an AHA criticism of the 1776 Curriculum (or report), or is the NBC report inaccurate on that count?” Grossman responded by criticizing the report, not the curriculum:

The 1776 Report has no mention of the Great Migration, which is one of most important social movements to shape 20th century America. There is on mention of the Ku Klux Klan, perhaps the most influential white nationalist movement in the history of our nation. It is not possible to understand 20th century United States without understanding the process and implications of the Great Migration. It is not possible to understand the use of terror to suppress Black political participation and economic mobility in the United States without understanding the role of the Ku Klux Klan. Nor is it possible to understand the importance, continuity, and culture of white nationalism in the United States without understanding the Klan.

When asked, “Has the AHA done any assessment of the 1776 Curriculum, as opposed to the report?” Grossman responded, “This possibility is under discussion.”

‘1776 Curriculum’ Contradicts NBC, AHA Claims

The curriculum itself contradicts two of the allegations NBC sourced to AHA, and the third criticizes a part of the curriculum that doesn’t exist yet. Two “1776 Curriculum” units relevant to the period of the Great Migration, when African Americans moved en masse from the South to northern cities, are yet to be released.

As for the KKK, the curriculum mentions it 32 times, including asking students to “Explain the emergence of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the power that their intimidation of African Americans and Republicans had in diminishing the political participation of freedmen.” It also recommends teachers “Teach students how Republicans passed and President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the Ku Klux Klan Acts to prohibit intimidation of freedmen exercising their civil rights.”

Regarding slavery and racism, the FAQ notes, “The curriculum includes eight complete lessons on slavery, a unit exclusively on equality in America, and mentions slavery over 2,000 times between kindergarten and 12th grade.” The document mentions “Jim Crow” 23 times, “black codes” (a precursor to Jim Crow) 36 times, “racism” 22 times, and “civil rights” 260 times.

Laundering Far-Left Politics into Schools

AHA criticisms of Hillsdale’s scholarship have been repeatedly inaccurate, said David Randall, a historian and director of research at the National Association of Scholars. NAS has published many in-depth reports on the decline of American history and civic education, which has coincided with the far-left politicization of academia.

“The 1776 Report contains extensive coverage of racism in America. The racists of the left hate it because it draws a direct line between the racism of Jim Crow and the racism of CRT [critical race theory] and declares them both horrific violations of America’s foundational ideals,” Randall said in an email to The Federalist. “In my professional opinion, the 1776 Report provides proper coverage of racism in American history — and any educational material on American history or civics which mentions CRT, while failing to identify it as a racist violation of America’s foundational ideals, downplays racism in American history.”

Randall noted South Dakota’s new K-12 social studies guidelines that a retired Hillsdale professor helped construct accurately depict American history regarding slavery and racism. Those curriculum guidelines include the Great Migration, multiple discussions of racism in American history, and the KKK. The AHA fought them vociferously.

“The AHA is not a disinterested arbiter of historical knowledge; it is a committed, leading participant in the campaign to radicalize American history and social studies education,” Randall said.

AHA Repeatedly Engages in Partisan Politics

A look at AHA’s recent oeuvre bolsters that claim. The organization has increasingly focused on political activism instead of historical scholarship. Its archive of “advocacy” activity includes four items in 2013; 13 in 2014; nine in 2015; 11 in 2016; 13 in 2017; 16 in 2018; 23 in 2019; 41 in 2020; 52 in 2021; 37 in 2022; and so far 25 in the first seven months of 2023.

While Grossman and the AHA criticized Hillsdale College for “a public commitment to partisan politics,” AHA’s advocacy reflects the same. In 2023, the AHA advocated for admitting students to college based on their race, demanded that Florida allow teachers to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with children, and supported teaching children in Alabama that all white people today are guilty for past racism against black people.

Other AHA acts of partisan politics include pushing genetic vaccines for Covid, supporting Roe v. Wade, advocating for exposing children to LGBT activism in school, and condemning Trump over a records dispute over which the Department of Justice later raided the home of a former U.S. president for the first time in American history.

The AHA has also promoted The New York Times’ 1619 Project by way of AHA member Kevin Kruse, one of 1619’s contributors. In 2021, Kruse was accused of plagiarizing in his Ph.D. thesis. His employer, Princeton University, dismissed the documentation in 2022, saying his accused plagiarism lacked “ill intent.” Kruse is also known for using his historian credentials to go after Democrats’ enemies.

To These Historians, Patriotism Equals Racism

“The Hillsdale curriculum is the red hat in textbook form,” Binghamton University historian Adam Laats told NBC, referring to the “Make America Great Again” hats some Donald Trump supporters wear.

“Hillsdale’s emphasis on American exceptionalism, Laats said, appeals to people who ‘worry that if kids aren’t hearing that, they are doing things like running off and joining antifa and burning down cities,'” NBC’s Kingkade writes.

Kingkade has a history of attacking school choice and equal participation in education politics from the right. On Monday, he knocked a new college admissions test popular with classical schools like those Hillsdale helps start. In May, he went after a small-town Colorado school board run by conservatives who support a local classical charter school. In March, he attacked charitable contributions to school choice.

Kingkade also has defended LGBT chants of “We’re coming for your children” and librarians seeking to show gay porn to kids.

This article has been corrected to note “a retired Hillsdale professor” worked on South Dakota’s standards, not the entire institution.

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