Civics Bill Would Devote $6 Billion to Woke Education, Critics Say

March 30, 2021 Updated: March 30, 2021

News Analysis

A radical piece of legislation that sponsors say will “supercharge civics education” by devoting $6 billion to the left’s pet projects will, according to critic Stanley Kurtz, actually “supercharge” the “culture war by injecting it into the heart of federal education policy.”

The Biden administration is firmly behind this effort to further entrench what critics say is an ahistorical, politically slanted interpretation of American history and civics into the nation’s classrooms, where, in many cases, the writings of communist scholar Howard Zinn, along with dubious revisionist material provided by the 1619 Project and the Southern Poverty Law Center, are taught as objective truth.

Mary Grabar, resident fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization and the author most recently of “Debunking the 1619 Project,” sees the measure as “a frightening culmination of what I’ve been observing for the last two decades.

“Now the power-hungry educrats have the federal government on their side.”

In Executive Order 13985, President Joe Biden’s first executive order, he rescinded President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13950, which banned the Marxist-invented critical race theory in federal training, and Trump’s Executive Order 13958, which created the 1776 Commission that sought to move U.S. education away from a radical curriculum that unduly emphasized race-related injustices of the past.

The 1776 Commission’s final report described critical race theory as “a variation of critical theory applied to the American context that stresses racial divisions and sees society in terms of minority racial groups oppressed by the white majority.”

“Equally significant to its intellectual content is the role Critical Race Theory plays in promoting fundamental social transformation,” it states, “to impart an oppressor-victim narrative upon generations of Americans. This work of cultural revolution has been going on for decades, and its first political reverberations can be seen in 1960s America.”

Federal Grants

The proposed “Civics Secures Democracy Act,” introduced in Congress on March 11, involves handing out $1 billion per year in federal grants over six years for K–12 curriculum development, teacher training, and research on the teaching of history and civics. Some of the money will go toward encouraging and supporting student political activism.

The education bureaucrats who will be in charge of disbursing the money are overwhelmingly left-wingers, and the recipients are likely to be of the same ideological stripe, conservative critics say.

The legislation, known in a previous iteration as the proposed “Educating for Democracy Act,” was introduced in the House as HR 1814 by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and Tom Cole (R-Okla.). The Senate version of the bill was introduced by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

DeLauro’s congressional website describes the measure as “a bipartisan bill that creates grants for states and districts to support and expand access to American history and civics to meet the needs of today’s students and our constitutional democracy.”

The bill would “provide resources to nonprofit organizations that have developed, or are developing, programs in civic education that incorporate practices that are proven to be effective in engaging students, and to assist in making such curricula and programs more widely available to schools and students, particularly in rural and inner-city urban areas that have traditionally been underserved by civic learning programs,” according to its text.

“The events of recent weeks have illustrated how fragile the democratic process is. We need to help train young people to appreciate how our democracy works,” said Blumenauer, referring to the security breach during the congressional certification of the presidential election at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and its aftermath.

“This effort has never been more important, and our legislation is an opportunity for the federal government to place money behind efforts to supercharge civics education.”

DeLauro, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, added: “Over the last several decades, civics education in American schools has seen a significant decline.

“The divide in this country continues to grow as we neglect civics education and fail to build a nation adequately informed of our democratic principles, norms, and institutions. Now, more than ever, it is important that we work together, across the aisle to invest in our young leaders—to secure our democracy for future generations. This legislation does just that.”

Critics Respond

Critics disagree.

The money disbursed under the legislation will promote so-called woke education, including critical race theory and action civics, in the nation’s classrooms, merging “the culture war [and] … K–12 education-policy disputes to a degree never before seen,” according to Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Action civics refers to K–12 and college students being required to protest and lobby for political causes for course credit.

The new legislation “is a backdoor effort to impose a de facto national curriculum in the politically charged subject areas of history and civics,” Kurtz writes at National Review.

“Civic engagement is, one, a subsidy for people who are radical activists, who teach this, and two, a way to groom a new generation to be nothing but these radical activists,” said David Randall, research director for the National Association of Scholars (NAS).

The group recently started a new project called The Civics Alliance that aspires to unite Americans in an effort to promote authentic civics education that teaches the nation’s founding principles and documents, key events of American history, the structure of our self-governing federal republic, and the spirit of liberty and tolerance, as The Epoch Times previously reported.

Underwritten by federal grants, the left-wing activists want to promote activities outside the classroom, usually with a nonprofit organization, and “what this does is it gets rids of actual education in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights,” Randall told The Epoch Times in an interview.

“This civics education is part of a broader ideological assault on the American republic,” he said.

They want to substitute “collective action overwhelmingly for radical progressive causes … habituating students to being organized and learning how to organize.” It’s “vocational training for left-wing activism.”

The legislation “is generally meant to be a tool of radical activism,” Randall said.

“There are a number of people who support it without realizing what it involves, and a number of people who are trying to make it be better than what it’d become, but they are, unfortunately, I think, far too weak as a portion of the coalition and cannot practically prevent it from becoming a tool of radical activism,” he said.

“It’s not until you look in the footnotes that you see it includes action civics.

“A bill putatively open to progressive and conservative civics, will, because they have action civics as one of the bureaucratic prerequisites to apply for a grant, be overwhelmingly steered to radical civics organizations.”

Conservative organizations that decide to support the “Civics Secures Democracy Act” because they think they might actually receive federal money will be “terribly disappointed.” The way the “bureaucratic hoops are being set up” means conservative and even moderate groups will likely be shut out of the grants process, Randall said.

Pete Hutchison, president of Landmark Legal Foundation, told The Epoch Times that the legislation, rife with action civics as it is, is a bad idea.

“These Alinskyite proposals seek to normalize in children radical leftist political activism disguised as public service. Patterned after the environmental movement’s co-opting of children in the 1970s, we face both the bogus critical race theory and phony civic action programs that are fundamental challenges to our very way of life.”