Oregon Education Department sponsors teacher event with controversial 1619 Project founder

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  • Oregon Education Department sponsors teacher event with controversial 1619 Project founder

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is sponsoring a teacher-designated event where the author of the controversial “1619 Project” will speak.

Scheduled for Friday night, the event is co-sponsored by the ODE and Oregon Alliance of Black School Educators.

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According to the Portland Association of Teachers, it will focus “on how the inclusion of 1619 historical events into our educational system will further Oregon’s efforts at breaking down systems of oppression.”

Titled “An Evening with Nikole Hannah Jones,” it’s framed as a way to help teachers “center our work in equity throughout the state.” 

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The ODE confirmed to Fox News it was sponsoring the event. “The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from the New York Times that reframes the Black experience in American history and is a valuable resource,” said ODE communications director Marc Siegel in a statement Friday.

He added: “Oregon’s State Board of Education says it well, ‘We will ensure in words and actions that every student has access to the resources and supports they need to thrive in school. We will explicitly work toward an education system that is culturally responsive, sustaining, eliminates barriers, and is relevant to Oregon’s diverse communities.'”

News of Friday’s event raised questions about a state that’s already seen controversy surrounding race in education.

Earlier this year, Fox News reported on how the ODE promoted a teacher training program that suggested White supremacy may manifest itself in a focus on finding the right answer in math.

More recently, Beaverton School District has come under fire after a Zoom equity training surfaced in which a teacher suggested that others didn’t belong there if they didn’t embrace certain ideas about racism. Multiple teachers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Fox News they felt fear and intimidation surrounding the issue in the school district.

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Siegel told Fox News: “ODE knows that every student and the community benefit when we center educational equity. For too long how much money a person makes, the color of their skin, or gender (as a few examples) have served as reliable predictors of student outcomes. ODE is committed to breaking those patterns and building better ways to teach, learn, and lead.” 

The 1619 Project earned Jones a Pulitzer Prize, and the Pulitzer Center announced in 2019 it would partner with The New York Times in distributing 1619 materials to schools across the country.

Jon Sawyer, executive director of the Pulitzer Center, said at the time: “The education network we have built over the past 13 years is premised on the belief that journalism can be the engine for public education and civil discourse. It is hard to imagine a topic more resonant, or more important, than ‘The 1619 Project.’”

However, both Jones and her project have received criticism for claims each has made. For example, Jones previously caught attention for saying it would be an “honor” for racially charged riots to be associated with her project.

Certain historians have raised concerns with some of the claims, namely that slavery was a primary reason why colonists fought the American Revolution.

Some conservatives have panned the work as an attempt to rewrite history and balked at the 1619 Project curriculum being taught in schools. To counter the 1619 Project, former President Trump formed a “1776 Commission” that issued a report meant to support what Trump called “patriotic education.”

Shortly after taking office, President Biden disbanded that commission that his team said “sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice” and removed the 1776 report from the White House website.

Fox News’ Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.

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