McConnell penned a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona with more than 30 of his GOP colleagues blasting new proposed priorities for American history and civics teaching as "divisive nonsense."
"Americans do not need or want their tax dollars diverted from promoting the principles that unite our nation toward promoting radical ideologies meant to divide us," McConnell wrote.
The Education Department published the new proposal on April 19 for federal grant guidelines designed to promote more "culturally responsive teaching and learning" at K-12 schools. As positive examples, the Department of Education cites the "landmark" 1619 Project, the resources of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and "anti-racist practices" modeled by scholar Ibram X. Kendi.
The 1619 Project was a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Magazine enterprise that examined the long-term consequences of slavery in America. It was released in 2019 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of enslaved Africans in colonial Virginia in 1619. Certain historians have raised concerns with some of the claims, namely that slavery was a primary reason that 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, 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.
McConnell's letter to Cardona stresses broad concerns that schools are diving into culture wars to the detriment of teaching students factual history and civics lessons.
McConnell and his GOP colleagues lamented that Americans aren't proficient in basic civics, such as naming the three branches of the federal government. Instead, certain schools and, now the federal government, are trying to inject "divisive, radical and historically-dubious" propaganda into the classrooms, the senators wrote.
"Taxpayer-supported programs should emphasize the shared civic virtues that bring us together, not push radical agendas that tear us apart," they wrote.
The Department of Education's proposed guidelines are targeted at a small voluntary grant program. Education Week notes the American History and Civics grants receive $5.3 million in federal funding, out of a roughly $74 billion budget for the department.