The American flag flies from the Equitable Building September 3, 2020 below Wall Street in the Financial District of New York City. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
(CNSNews.com) – A new curriculum called 1776 Unites has launched this month as an alternative to The New York Times’ 1619 Project.
It celebrates black excellence by showcasing the achievements of African-Americans who “prospered by embracing America’s founding ideals of free enterprise, family, hard work entrepreneurship and faith.”
The curriculum contains lessons grounded in 10 principles taught by founder Bob Woodson, who also founded the Woodson Center: confidence, integrity, transparency, resilience, witness, innovation, inspiration, agency, access, and grace.
The 1776 Unites curriculum is free and is being offered as a supplement to history and English courses and “social-emotional learning” in K-12 schools. In addition to schools, it is being offered to camps, after-school programs, churches, homes, parents, and “anywhere character formation of children is happening.”
Ian Rowe, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and one of the 1776 Unites scholars, said the program includes two major components – a look back and a look forward.
The look back component features “stories and lesson plans that celebrate black excellence, reject victimhood culture and showcase African-Americans past and present who have prospered by embracing America’s founding ideals of free enterprise, family, hard work entrepreneurship and faith.”
“The look forward component includes units that teach life lessons, that help the next generation understand the series of life decisions that give them the greatest likelihood of economic and other forms of success as they make their passage into young adulthood,” he said.
Lessons are added monthly with K-8 modules coming soon, Rowe said.
The first unit establishes the 10 Woodson principles and “why they’re so critical in the process of individuals and groups becoming their own agents of uplift,” he said.
The second unit features Biddy Mason, “an amazing woman who was born a slave and died a millionaire and a philanthropist.”
“The third unit is on Elijah McCoy, also born a slave and became an engineer and developed products that were so unique he received several patents, is in the Inventor’s Hall of Fame, and for the burgeoning train industry, the products he developed were so superior that imitators created knockoffs, and so when astute engineers were buying products, they said, ‘no, no, no. I don’t want the knockoffs. I want the real McCoy,’” Rowe said.
“Most people know that phrase, but they don’t know its origin, and the purpose of the 1776 curriculum is to let millions of young people know these incredible stories,” he said.
Founder Bob Woodson warned that American values are being threatened by The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which the NYT describes as “an ongoing initiative” that “began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery.”
“It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative,” NYT stated on its website.
Woodson called the NYT 1691 Project “a very corrosive and very dangerous challenge” to traditional American values.
“In essence what they’re saying is because of 1619, the time when slaves arrived on the shores, that America should be defined as a racist society where all whites are culpable and guilty of having privilege and therefore should be punished and all blacks are victims that should be compensated,” he said.
Woodson said that 1776 Unites “is not a challenge in a debate with the 1916 Project, “but it is an aspirational and an inspirational alternative to this diabolical, I believe, message.”
He said that 1776 takes the best of what occurred in the past, “shows the resiliency of black America, and presents it in a way that will help young people in our society profit from and rebuild to affirm America’s values.”
“No nation or individual should be defined by its birth defect or what it used to be in the past. America should be defined by its promise,” Woodson said. “People are inspired to improve their lives when you offer them inspirational examples of victories that are possible instead of what 1619 does, only talks about injuries to be avoided.”
CNSNews.com asked whether 1776 Unites was created as an answer to the 1619 Project.
“We were animated to respond to it. Yes, the very fact that I think that they are used, African-American journalists are using the black experience as a bludgeon against the country, an abusive use of it I think. We thought it was important for the response to it to be led by African-Americans as well,” Woodson said.
“That’s why primarily most of our scholars are African-American, but not exclusively. It’s like the civil rights coalition. We’ve come together as Americans, and so it was animated by it and so therefore, yeah, we have to acknowledge that this is—but again we’re not doing this to engage in some latitorial combat with the other side. We think people are motivated by inspirational stories like the McCoys and just unknown stories of black resiliency,” he said.
“One quick example, for instance, that I was impressed with in terms of– they were saying, well, blacks were not able to accumulate wealth because of redlining and Jim Crow. The very fact is in 1929 in the city of Chicago, there were 731 black-owned businesses, and in Chicago, blacks owned $100 million in real estate assets, and out-of-wedlock births were less than 15 percent, and there were black Wall Streets all over the country like in Tulsa and Durham, North Carolina,” Woodson said.
“So these stories of achievement against the odds, they need to be told, but they’re being ignored by 1619, because it doesn’t fit the victims’ narrative,” he said.
Rowe said that the forward-looking component to the program is as important as looking at the history.
“The 1776 Unites curriculum, as Bob said, was originally in response to 1619 Project, but we go beyond that. As I mentioned, there’s a look back component … but as importantly, there’s a look forward component. So for example, future lessons will include content related to something called what’s called the success sequence, which is data that shows when individuals of all races practice a few certain steps, it dramatically increases their likelihood of entering the middle class or above,” he said.
“So data shows that you get only a high school degree or some college, a full-time job of any kind so you learn the dignity and discipline of work, and then if you have children, get married first, people who have made those decisions, 98 percent of the time have avoided poverty. There’s no guarantee in life, but that’s the kind of information young people should know as they make decisions for their own passage into adulthood,” Rowe added.
Woodson said that 1776 Unites can’t compete with the 1619 Project in terms of resources, “but there is a pent-up demand for it we know, and so we are looking for innovative ways to meet that demand.”
Rowe said that “some of the most well-respected historians in the country have overwhelmingly discredited and rejected key elements of the 1619 Project.”
He cautioned anyone considering bringing NYT’s 1619 Project into schools should first “really assess the veracity of the claims that are made within the 1619 curriculum.”
As far as 1776 Unites is concerned, Rowe said, “We know that there’s pent-up demand in the charter sector and school districts across the country, for example Great Hearts Academy, the fantastic network in Arizona and a couple of other states are interested in implementing the curriculum, and we will soon be announcing other partners who are very interested in implementing the curriculum.”
CNSNews.com asked whether 1776 Unites is working with or plans to work with the Education Department to have its curriculum taught in schools.
“Curriculum is a state and local issue, but we are happy for any and all entities to embrace our curriculum and promulgate it,” Woodson said.