Do you remember Michael Bellesiles, gentle readers? This may help:
n 2000, Emory University history professor Michael Bellesiles published the book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. The central argument of the book was that the culture of American gun ownership does not date back to the colonial era and, instead, emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century when technological advances made firearms more affordable.
Among the academic left, the book was wildly popular. Scholars gave glowing reviews of the book, and Columbia University awarded Bellesiles one of the most coveted prizes in the history profession: The Bancroft. Enhancing his newfound academic fame were the enemies he made, namely the National Rifle Association. Charlton Heston, to the glee of anti-gun academics, vocally criticized the book. Bellesile reveled in the attention, telling Heston that he should earn his PhD before criticizing anybody who has one.
Because the self-imagined elite are much, much more intelligent and moral than everyone else.
Leftist scholars were thrilled to have an academic book that appeared to thoroughly demolish the notion, so cherished by American gun owners, that the country was founded on a culture of widespread gun ownership. They even admitted as much, with the publisher saying that it was ‘ecstatic’ about publishing it ‘because the book knocked the gun lobby.
Actually, it did more than that. It was the intended academic proof, once and for all, that would allow anti-liberty/gun cracktivists to debunk that annoying Second Amendment and do away with guns. If the earliest Americans, including the founders did not own or appreciate guns, the Second Amendment must be a mere footnote. Many were not at all shy in forwarding that argument.
But even amidst the ideological bias that plagues academia, there are still many scholars who value honesty and good scholarship more than politically appealing arguments. Even before the book was published, several historians were questioning the data upon which Bellesiles’s argument was made, which was originally published in a 1996 article for the Journal of American History. Trying to follow his calculations, nobody had been able to reproduce his results. The data was vague, the calculations of percentages seemed incorrect, and he left out relevant quantitative information, such as the base number of cases.
As praise turned to criticism, more historians began to look into his research. Bellesiles was now on the defensive, not just from people like the NRA, whose enmity only enhanced his academic celebreté, but now from sympathetic academics who would have liked nothing more than for his argument to be true. So Bellesiles started offering excuses for the problems critics kept discovering. He didn’t keep a record of his visits to the archives, so he couldn’t point critics to the appropriate sources. The notes he took on yellow legal pads were destroyed in an office flood. But when the paperback edition of the book came out in 2001, Bellesiles apparently found the flood-destroyed data again to add new numbers to the tables, only to (apparently) lose them once more. They’d just have to trust him, as he was unable to replicate his own research.
And why not trust him, because the self-imagined elite would never lie. They’re above that, beyond it.
Finally, Emory University hired a committee to investigate their rising star. Confirming what critics had already said, the investigating scholars were unable to duplicate his data tables, and they found significant evidence of ethical violations, including the outright fabrication of data. This including the citation of data that didn’t exist (such as wills that were never actually left behind, or probate records that had been destroyed a century before in a fire), and even the records that he did use were grossly misrepresented. He also disingenuously quoted historical figures, including George Washington, that so egregiously took statements out of historical context that nobody was willing to argue as having been unintentional.
In short, Bellesiles had committed fraud. Columbia University rescinded the Bancroft Prize (the only time that has been done to date), and under the mounting criticism, Bellesiles resigned his position at Emory University.
The publisher also withdrew the book, though I still have a copy, which I use to help explain issues such as plagiarism and other academic fraud. Academic fraud is easy to allege, so one must always be careful about making such accusations, as I discovered in 2017:
Did you know, gentle readers, I was once accused of political bias in the classroom? It’s true. It was quite the story for a day or two in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. What did I do to be so newsworthy? Did I make kids worship Donald Trump? Praise Barack Obama as a messiah? Write mean texts to Hillary Clinton? I presented, in one 40-minute lesson, the broadly general differences between Republican and Democrat policies.
Contemporary teenagers, you see, know virtually nothing about those differences. Most have no idea whether their own philosophies– if they have any philosophies at all–are more Republican or Democrat. I’ve therefore found it necessary to provide that small bit of information prior to dealing with the media–a state requirement–the Constitution and Declaration of Independence (part of teaching early American literature). That’s what kind of evil, political partisan I am. In that tempest in a teapot controversy, I learned what President Trump means by ‘fake news.’
I was accused of—gasp!—asking kids if they were Republicans or Democrats. Guilty as charged. I did that prior to providing whirlwind sketches of the respective philosophies because I’ve discovered kids, and not a few adults, have no real idea of such things, and inevitably, when I asked for a show of hands, only one or two knew what they might be, eloquently making my point. In any case, that non-controversy blew over in a few days, my school district recognized I did nothing at all wrong, and that was that. However, there is now real academic fraud that is not going away anytime soon.
I speak of The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which, as one might expect, has been adopted wholeheartedly by some school districts. It’s a topic I first approached in August of 2019, shortly after The NYT announced it. I recommend that article, but I also recommend this article on the same subject by John Murawski in Real Clear Investigations.
From the moment Fatima Morrell read The New York Times’ 1619 Project last year, the educator embraced the 100-page magazine special issue on slavery and racism as a professional godsend. Morrell, an associate superintendent in the Buffalo, N.Y., school district, where 80% of the 31,200 students are non-white, was inspired by the project’s reframing of American history that put the struggles and contributions of black Americans ‘at the very center’ of the nation’s self-understanding.
‘I just think it really becomes a curriculum of emancipation, a pedagogy of liberation, for freeing the minds of young people,’ said Morrell, who was involved in the decision to adopt the 1619 Project as part of the district’s curriculum. ‘Particularly for our black children, it lets them know there actually isn’t something wrong with you. We don’t need to be self-destructive, to hate ourselves. There actually was an institution of enslavement that really put us 400 years behind in terms of where we are with prosperity.”
Actually, should you read both articles, you’ll discover the 1619 Project does quite the opposite. Not only is it racist propaganda rather than history, it teaches eternal victimhood rather than liberation. Sadly, it is popular:
Since its publication in August, the 1619 Project has been adopted in more than 3,500 classrooms in all 50 states, according to the 2019 annual report of the Pulitzer Center, which has partnered with the Times on the project. Five school systems, including Chicago and Washington, D.C., have adopted it district-wide. It is mostly being used as supplemental, optional classroom teaching material. By and large, school systems are adopting the project by administrative fiat, not through a public textbook review process.
Even as it is being embraced by schools, the project is facing strong pushback from some leading scholars who say it presents a false version of American history. They dispute The New York Times’ claim that America’s true founding date is not 1776, the year the colonies declared independence from Great Britain, but 1619, when 20 to 30 enslaved Africans were brought to Jamestown, Va., leading to the creation of a ‘slavocracy’ whose legacy of racism and oppression has been encoded in the nation’s DNA and hidden in plain sight.
Gordon Wood, a leading historian of the American Revolution and emeritus professor at Brown University, told RealClearInvestigations the Times material “is full of falsehoods and distortions.” In its current form, without corrections, which the Times has declined to run, the only way to use it in the classroom, he said, would be “as a way of showing how history can be distorted and perverted.”
The project’s leader, Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, has declared since the magazine’s publication that her goal ‘is that there’ll be a reparations bill passed’ – meaning financial reparations for slavery and subsequent racial discrimination. The newspaper editorial board has never officially endorsed such legislation, but several Times columnists and contributing writers have.
The 1619 Project is also a bold departure from traditional journalism that aims to provide readers with impartial information and a range of perspectives, rather than to unilaterally declare whose perspective is and isn’t true. Instead of telling readers it is presenting a controversial view of history, endorsed by a minority of historians, the national newspaper of record declares in the opening pages of the 1619 Project: “It is finally time to tell our story truthfully.”
That stance appears to fit into a broader strategy. In a staff meeting in August, Executive Editor Dean Baquet said filtering news through the prism of race is a newsroom goal, according to coverage in Slate.com, with the 1619 Project setting the standard on how it should be done.
‘One reason we all signed off on the 1619 Project and made it so ambitious and expansive was to teach our readers to think a little bit more like that,’ Baquet reportedly said. He added that the Times committed to the 1619 Project ‘to try to understand the forces that led to the election of Donald Trump.
Forces like the New York Times engaging in political activism rather than reporting the news? Forces like trying to force false “history” down the throats of unsuspecting children? Forces like racially dividing the nation? Those forces?
Through its 18 articles and 15 artistic contributions, the 1619 Project declares that much of American history unfolded from that fateful event in 1619: chattel slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, redlining, incarceration and urban poverty, as well as legacies not as widely understood, such as obesity. Its essays, written by a team of mostly African-American journalists and historians, argue that modern accounting methods, urban traffic patterns, resistance to adopting universal health care, overconsumption of sugar – and American capitalism itself – are some of the insidious ways that the legacy of slavery shapes our society today.
It contends that no one has a greater claim to this country than African Americans, whose centuries-long struggle for freedom and full citizenship rights redeemed the United States by keeping alive its revolutionary ideals.
Never mind it was America that led the world in abolishing slavery, and in providing full civil rights for Blacks. Indeed, this took time, but it is the law of the land. But accounting? Urban traffic patterns? Resistance to universal health care, the consumption of sugar? Obesity? Capitalism? All of these, and more, are the legacy of slavery? All of these, and more, continue to oppress Black Americans? The “revolutionary ideals” of which they speak are the “Black Lives Movement,” which argues for exclusion and division, not for liberty.
The Civil Rights movement succeeded. It achieved its goals, yet race hustlers continue to hustle, for without something to keep Black people dependent on them and the government, they have no honest means of making a living.
The NYT produced a product for a waiting, anxious constituency:
In January, Buffalo Public Schools became the most recent school system to announce that it was making the 1619 Project a required component of the 7th– through 12th-grade curriculum.
According to the school district, the 1619 Project will help “render a true history of the institution of slavery for all students, a history which is often silenced in mainstream curriculum and textbooks.’ The Pulitzer Center donated 5,600 copies of the magazine-length 1619 Project for all of its 11th– and 12th-grade teachers and students.
The rate of adoption, in just six months, is noteworthy.
‘This is definitely not business-as-usual; it’s an unusual event in textbooks and course adoptions,’ said Fabio Rojas, a sociology professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, and author of ‘From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline.’ ‘The entire school district is saying, ‘This is our official supplement.’ It’s the prestige of having the entire school system saying, ‘This is something you should take a look at.’
Forget all of that silly public input and professional academic review. This is too important for that sort of nonsense. Buffalo educrats know far better than the citizens of Buffalo how their children must be indoctrinated.
Meanwhile, publishing giant Random House plans four 1619-themed books for young readers; its Clarkson Potter imprint is readying a 1619 Project special illustrated edition; and Ten Speed Press is set to publish a ‘graphic novelization’ [comic book version] of the project. The effort also includes a podcast in five episodes and a kids’ section in the Times print edition. A special broadsheet with a story on how slavery is taught in U.S. schools includes a history of slavery depicted in 15 objects as curated by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The books will involve The New York Times’ creative team behind the 1619 Project, led by Hannah-Jones, an award-winning journalist, who in 2017 received a MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ grant for her reporting about segregation and racism in America’s educational systems.
Hannah-Jones, who suggested the 1619 Project to her editors, oversaw its execution. She also wrote the lead essay, ‘The Idea of America,’ which now famously asserts the United States’ founding ideals of equality and liberty, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, were a ‘lie’ to the founders who birthed them, but ultimately realized by African Americans who embraced those ideals and fought for them, largely alone.
Anyone that knows anything about this issue and the founding understands that’s just not true. The issue was far more complex, and many of the Founders abhorred slavery, eventually freeing their slaves, but knew it was not politically possible to immediately end it. Had they insisted on immediate abolition, the United States likely would not have been born, and the nation instrumental in ending global slavery would have been stillborn. Hannah-Jones appears to be a stereotypical race hustler:
‘I’m not expecting that white people should feel guilty about slavery if you didn’t enslave anybody yourself,’ she explained. ‘But I am saying that you can’t pretend that you’re free of that legacy. And you can’t pretend that you’re not benefiting today from that legacy.’
‘Your work is not to apologize for slavery, though the federal government should,’ she continued. ‘But your work is to look that life that you lead now is a direct connection. You inherit the good, but you also inherit the bad. You inherit the debt that is owed.’
Ultimately, Hannah-Jones’ hope is that the 1619 Project would make it impossible for white people not to see their privileged status in American society. On the Karen Hunter show, she said getting a reparations bill passed may not be a realistic goal, ‘but it feels more realistic than, like, can we get white Americans to stop being white?’
‘So I don’t know that this project can get white people to give up whiteness,’ Hannah-Jones said, ‘but it can certainly expose for them what whiteness is.’
And what, pray tell, might “whiteness” be, exactly? This is the woman some school districts think fit to teach American History to children. Again, gentle readers, read both articles, and be aware this is the type of thing being pushed on schoolchildren throughout America. Academic fraud—the real thing—is, sadly, alive and well.