Opinion | Iowa Republicans are pro-censorship

The bill put forward by Iowa Republicans to effectively ban schools from teaching the 1619 Project is an attempt at censorship straight out of the Red Scare.


Grace Kreber

Nikole Hannah-Jones speaking with the university lecture committee in a virtual setting on Tuesday, Sept 22, 2020. Nikole spoke on her 1916 project about the continuing history of American slavery.

Peyton Downing, Opinions Columnist

Republican lawmakers in the Iowa House seem intent on repeating a modern-day version of the red scare. House File 222 would remove the funding from all schools, including community colleges and public universities, that teach Waterloo-born author Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 project.

This can only be described as an act of government censorship and dare I say it, cancel culture.

The purpose of the 1619 project is to reframe developments in American history through the lens of slavery, and more broadly racial injustice.

The reasoning behind the passing of this bill is straight out of the McCarthy playbook. Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, stated that his opposition to the project’s involvement in any curriculum is because its ideas are “Marxist” and “socialist.”

I’ve already talked about this before when Joni Ernst was campaigning and calling Theresa Greenfield and many other Democrats communists and socialists and Marxists and whatever other leftist term they wish to assign milquetoast liberals. But frankly, it’s just boring.

Critiquing something does not mean you are against it. People have the capacity to criticize something without disliking it or wanting an alternative system. Not everyone wishes to throw out the baby with the bath water.

That is not the only issue with this legislation, however. There’s also the matter of fact that this is a huge overreach of government power and responsibility. School curricula are meant to be decided by school boards. They decide what gets run, how it gets run, when it gets run, and all the other bits and bobs as long as courses meet certain quality standards.

The Iowa Association of School Boards itself has registered against the bill because of this fact. It would set a precedent that local officials would no longer have the capacity to decide what they wish to teach, instead being beholden to the state Legislature.

For the party of small government, it seems awfully ironic that they’re the ones pushing for more control and power to be given to the government.

Besides, schools across the nation have already been using the 1619 Project in curricula. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, public schools in Chicago have been using it to help teach AP U.S. history courses for months.

This is still not even touching upon the fact that Republicans are currently “trying to defend the freedom of speech in schools.”

In the case of the University of Iowa College of Dentistry‘s free speech case regarding an accusation of unprofessional behavior, Iowa Republicans have been up in arms about the sanctity of free speech and censorship.

Does no one feel any form of cognitive dissonance in how on one hand Republicans are fighting to allow political speech to be said inside of schools while simultaneously preventing political speech from being said inside of schools?

But clearly, such nuances are lost on Wheeler and other Republicans, who only seem to care about freedom of speech when it comes to not wanting to suffer consequences of publicly proclaiming their uncaring attitude toward the civil rights of minorities.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.