Former education secretary Bill Bennett launches program to counter 'politicized' content in schools

'The Story of America' utilizes material based on Bennett’s best-selling history series, 'America: The Last Best Hope.'

Former Education Secretary William Bennett is launching a series of interactive stories that will combine literacy and historical education in an attempt to counter content like the "1619 Project."

With a public campaign announced Monday, the new initiative purportedly meets U.S. history standards and aims to reverse declining academic achievement among American students. Dan Kuenster, an Emmy-award winning artist and a former Disney Animation Studios executive, is producing the online platform, which utilizes a curriculum based on Bennett’s best-selling history series, "America: The Last Best Hope."

Dubbed "The Story of America," the new project is the result of a combined effort between Bennett, businessman and philanthropist Richard Collins, and Kathleen Leos, who served as assistant deputy secretary & director of the office of english language acquisition in the U.S. Department of Education.

Monday's announcement came amid testy school board meetings where parents criticize purportedly left-leaning influences on their children's education.

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Proponents of material like the "1619 Project" generally argue that traditional education has whitewashed America's injustices against slaves and Native Americans. 

Both Bennett and "1619 Project" founder Nikole Hannah Jones have framed their materials as supplemental tools for teachers. Hannah-Jones' project won her a Pulitzer Prize but has also earned her much criticism, including from some at her alma mater. 

The Pulitzer Center has been promoting Jones' work while teachers have implemented it across the country. The "standard" history taught in American schools, Hannah-Jones has said, depicted a "country that doesn't actually exist. It's a country that erases all of these other people who were here."

During a talk with Oregon educators, Hannah-Jones said: "And when you're talking specifically about Black Americans, so much of how our country would develop was because of slavery and the anti-Blackness that arose to really justify slavery … it influences the Declaration [of Independence]. The original version of the Declaration of Independence actually talks about slavery and really blames slavery on the king of Britain. It influences our Constitution, it influences our Supreme Court, our legal system. So, when we teach this as a separate history, we actually are not equipping students to understand the country in which we live. We are equipping students to understand a country that I guess some people would like to pretend that we have, but not the actual country."

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Leaders like Bennett, however, suggests that the left has gone too far in demonizing American historical figures and institutions.

"For too long, an anti-America ideology that radically misrepresents U.S. history has infiltrated our education system and misled our kids," said Bennett in a statement provided to Fox News.

"The need for a program like this has never been greater. The Story of America will shine a light on our current educational crisis and share the history of our country with the next generation in a way that is truthful, engaging, and gives students the full, complex story of America, which is sadly no longer shared in many of our classrooms."    

Bennett has authored several books since leaving the Reagan administration and – along with Collins – is currently leading the TODAY Foundation, which is promoting "The Story of America" for Fall 2022. He is also a Fox News contributor. 

His team has already started reaching out to educational systems across the country to leverage previous work in Texas. Kuenster and Leos have built the "Texas History Awakens" project, which serves as a model for "The Story of America."

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"Across our country, politics has replaced teaching at the expense of our children," said Leos. "Politicized classrooms have caused education standards to fall, leaving children without the proper core competencies in literacy and history. This curriculum explores our nation’s journey through time, while also reinforcing literacy skills through critical reading and writing instruction using this innovative platform."