Psaki: Teaching ‘1619 Project,’ Critical Race Theory in College Is ‘Responsible’

May 14, 2021 Updated: May 14, 2021

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday said it is responsible for colleges to teach the idea that racism is embedded in the American system, dismissing criticism that such teaching aims at indoctrinating American youth.

In a White House press briefing, Psaki was asked about a proposed legislation by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) that would place an one percent tax on the value of the endowments of the country’s wealthiest private colleges, and use that money to support vocational education and training.

The reporter noted that Cotton’s proposal would affect institutions that teach “un-American ideas” such as those of critical race theory and the New York Times’s “1619 Project,” which argue the United States was founded as, and remains, a racist nation.

“Without much detail of where he thinks our youth are being indoctrinated, it sounds very mysterious and dangerous,” Psaki said after asking what exactly Cotton means by un-American indoctrination and what he plans to do with the money. “I don’t think we believe that educating the youth and the future leaders of the country on systemic racism is indoctrination. That’s actually responsible.”

“But, I would say, if he’s trying to raise money for something, then our view is there’s lots of ways to do that,” she continued. “We know that a number of corporations hugely benefited financially during the pandemic. They could pay more taxes. We think the highest one percent of Americans can pay more taxes.”

Cotton’s proposal, known as the Ivory Tower Tax Act, was introduced earlier this week.

“Our wealthiest colleges and universities have amassed billions of dollars, virtually tax-free, all while indoctrinating our youth with un-American ideas,” the senator said in a press release. “This bill will impose a tax on university mega-endowments and support vocational and apprenticeship training programs in order to create high paying, working-class jobs.”

An outspoken critic of the 1619 Project, Cotton last year introduced the “Saving American History Act of 2020” that would reduce federal funding to public schools where the highly controversial narrative is taught as actual U.S. history. The bill is currently in consideration in the Senate Education and Labor Committee.

Spearheaded by the New York Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones, the 1619 Project is known for portraying the United States as an inherently racist nation founded on slavery. It consists of a collection of essays that argue, among many other controversial claims, that the real reason for the American Revolution was to preserve slavery, and that slavery was the primary driver of American capitalism during the 19th century.

The integrity of the 1619 Project has been questioned by a variety of scholars, most notably those on the Trump administration’s advisory 1776 Commission. In its first and last report, the commission criticized the project for promoting a distorted account of the nation’s founders, and called for a return to “patriotic education” focusing on how generations of Americans overcame racism to live up to the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.