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No comment: National Council for History Education stays silent on call to abolish history lessons in Illinois

Meanwhile, conservative history professor argues proposal ‘nothing less than an assault on the very idea of objective truth’

The National Council for History Education told The College Fix it has no comment on a Chicago lawmaker’s recent proposal to abolish history classes in Illinois schools.

The Democratic lawmaker, Rep. LaShawn Ford, suggested the current curriculum “leads to white privilege and a racist society.”

The council’s executive director Grace Leatherman told The College Fix last week via email: “NCHE does not have a comment at this time.”

The council’s statement of purpose is to “defend and promote history teaching and learning at all levels K-16 and beyond,” its website states.

But it appears the group does not want to weigh in on the controversial, Chicago-based proposal. What’s more, the Illinois State Historical Society did not respond to requests from The College Fix seeking comment.

A news release from Ford and other Chicago leaders state they are concerned “that current school history teaching leads to white privilege and a racist society,” adding he and others are calling “on the state to stop its current history teaching practices until appropriate alternatives are developed.”

“When it comes to teaching history in Illinois, we need to end the miseducation of Illinoisans,” Ford said in the news release. “I’m calling on the Illinois State Board of Education and local school districts to take immediate action by removing current history books and curriculum practices that unfairly communicate our history.”

“Until a suitable alternative is developed, we should instead devote greater attention toward civics and ensuring students understand our democratic processes and how they can be involved.”

The news release was republished in full by NBC Chicago, which reported Ford is also “sponsoring a bill that would require elementary schools to teach students about the civil rights movement.”

While the National Council for History Education has decided to remain silent on the topic for now, one conservative history professor was willing to address it when asked by The College Fix.

Jay Bergman, a history professor at Central Connecticut State University, said he likens the situation to what occurred in the Soviet Union.

“There was a Party Line on everything, including history. And since the Party Line changed in accordance with the needs of Soviet leaders, the official history of the Soviet Union — which was the only version allowed … changed accordingly,” Bergman told The College Fix via email.

“And if the changes in the Party Line were expansive enough, history textbooks in schools were withdrawn, and the teaching of history was suspended until new textbooks, reflecting the new Party Line, could be published and distributed.”

Bergman said he believes calls to suspend history classes are the first steps down the same path: “They seem to believe that the past is something that can and should be changed in accordance with what politicians believe advances their own agenda.”

In an interview with Fox News earlier this month, Rep. Ford expanded on his argument, and noted other groups are seeking to join his cause.

“We know that the history books that we have were written years ago, decades, centuries ago by pretty much one group of people, and that’s white men,” Ford told host Sandra Smith.

“And we know that it’s not a perfect accounting [of] the contributions that women have made, that Black people have made,” Ford added, “and it’s just not right that we continue to teach people an inaccurate history that’s not inclusive of all the contributions that have been made in America.”

But Fox News also quoted black conservative scholar Deroy Murdock in response, who argued it’s fine to teach about black accomplishments, but it’s not good to erase history.

“I’m all for discussing the work of George Washington Carver, the great Black scientist,” Murdock said, “but that doesn’t mean that we stop teaching the contributions of Thomas Edison, who was responsible for the lights you see right behind the camera, which are lighting me up right now.”

Bergman, in his email to The College Fix, said politicians often seek to revise history when they’re interested in “controlling what people believe about their country’s past [which] makes much easier the imposition of a vision of the future … driven by ideological fanaticism, on people lacking sufficient knowledge about their own country’s history to oppose it.”

“That is why what is being advocated in Illinois is so dangerous,” the history professor added. “… It is nothing less than an assault on the very idea of objective truth. And should that assault prove successful, no society can endure — not even one as fundamentally virtuous as America’s.”

The College Fix received no response from Rep. Ford when asked for comment.

MORE: ‘Land of Hope’: New history textbook aims to tell America’s story with honesty, context

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About the Author
Jessica Resuta -- Franciscan University of Steubenville