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America: Land of the Individual

Nikole Hannah-Jones Says She Doesn't Understand Why 'Parents Should Decide What’s Being Taught' in Schools

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File

The 1619 Project author Nikole Hannah-Jones said Sunday that she did not understand the notion that parents should have a say in what their children should be taught in school, a message mirroring comments made earlier this year by former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).


"I don’t really understand this idea that parents should decide what’s being taught. I’m not a professional educator. I don’t have a degree in social studies or science. We send our children to school because we want them to be taught by people who have expertise in the subject area," Hannah-Jones said during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Her comments come after McAuliffe, who lost Virginia's gubernatorial election to Republican Glenn Youngkin last month, said during a September debate with his GOP opponent that he did not think "parents should be telling schools what they should teach."

Hannah-Jones referenced McAuliffe’s remarks during her appearance on NBC, when she claimed the Democrat's comments are "just the fact."

"This is why we send our children to school and don’t homeschool, because these are the professional educators who have the expertise to teach social studies, to teach history, to teach science, to teach literature," she said. "And I think we should leave that to the educators. Yes, we should have some say. But school is not about simply confirming our worldview. Schools should teach us to question. They should teach us how to think, not what to think."


The 1619 Project, which Hannah-Jones wrote for The New York Times in 2019, claims that America was founded on racism and that 1619, when the first slave ships arrived from Africa, should be considered America's true founding.

And while the project has been accused of inaccuracy and fabrication, and a number of state governments have banned the teaching of the material in public schools as part of larger restrictions on the teachings of critical race theory, which alleges that racial minorities are oppressed and white people are oppressors, Hannah-Jones says such efforts to prohibit her work in classrooms is an example of attempts to stifle free speech. 

"I’m quite concerned about what’s happening in our country because, as you know, my project, which is a work of journalism in The New York Times, is banned by name in Georgia, in Florida, in Texas," Hannah-Jones said during her Sunday appearance. "There are efforts to ban the teaching of this history in Oklahoma, in South Dakota, in Tennessee. When we think about what type of society bans books or bans ideas, that is not a free and tolerant democratic society, that is a society that is veering towards authoritarianism."

"Unless people who believe in free speech, who believe in our children being intellectually challenged, begin to get organized and speak up, I think we’re going into a dark age of repression and suppression of the truth," she continued. "Really, these laws are paving the way for the taking of other political rights like voting rights, like women’s reproductive rights, like rights for LGBTQ people. So we’re going to have to decide what kind of country we want to be."


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