LaShawn Ford, a Democrat in the Illinois General Assembly, has called for an immediate halt of history classes that he claims “lead to white privilege and a racist society,” sparking concerns over an Orwellian revision of history.
“I’m calling on the state board of education to end the teaching of history and the local school districts to take immediate action by removing the current history books and curriculum practices that unfairly communicate our history,” Ford said Sunday at an event in Evanston, Illinois. His vague plan calls for temporarily replacing history classes by devoting greater attention to civics and ensuring that students “understand our democratic process and how they can get involved.”
Ford, who formerly taught history and coached basketball in Chicago Public Schools before becoming a real estate broker and eventually getting into politics, didn’t provide specifics on how the state’s new history curriculum should look. He however introduced a bill last month that would require Illinois schools to teach classes on the US civil rights movement.
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“We’re concerned that current school history teachings lead to white privilege and a racist society,” Ford said. “It costs us as a society in the long run, forever, when we don’t understand our brothers and sisters that we live, work and play with.”
Ford’s proposal comes amid rising controversy over US public school history curriculums. Republican US Senator Tom Cotton last month introduced a bill to ban schools from using federal funding to teach curriculums based on the New York Times 1619 Project, which he called “a racially divisive, revisionist account of history that denies the noble freedom and equality on which our nation was founded.”
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Ford’s radical initiative raised quite a few eyebrows on social media, with one Twitter user wondering, “So we are done with toppling statues, now we are going to rewrite history?” Another replied with a photo of ‘1984’ author George Orwell saying, “Boy, did I call it or what?”
Orwell described the dystopia of his novel: “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered… History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
Ford’s idea nevertheless found support online, with some commenting that “incredibly biased” American classrooms had indeed “whitewashed” history. And while the lawmaker’s office literally titled its press release “Rep. Ford Today in Evanston to Call for the Abolishment of History Classes in Illinois Schools,” others nonetheless argued the proposal never called to abolish history courses outright, but merely to replace the current curriculum with a more “inclusive” one.
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