Virginia education bill mocked for erroneous 'fact' about Abraham Lincoln's slavery debates

Virginia education bill mocked for erroneous 'fact' about Abraham Lincoln's slavery debates
Abraham Lincoln. Salt print. Ostendorf O-55. The earliest presidential portrait of Lincoln.

A proposed education bill in Virginia has received sharp criticism for the misinterpretation of basic historical facts surrounding former President Abraham Lincoln's debate with the late Illinois Sen. Steven Douglas.

According to Slate, the controversy centers on a bill pre-filled by Rep. Wren Williams (R-Va.). As the Republican war on Critical Race Theory (CRT) continues, the latest piece of suggested legislation in Virginia "proposed a new standard for regulating high-school social studies curricula in the state, including a requirement that students learn about 'the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.'”

However, Slate senior writer Christina Cauterucci has highlighted the glaring problem with that so-called historical fact. The “Lincoln-Douglas debates” over the continuance of slavery were not between the late president and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, but rather the late Illinois senator.

"This was a clear misunderstanding of the 1858 “Lincoln-Douglas debates,” in which Steven Douglas, a then-sitting senator from Illinois—not Frederick Douglass, the famed abolitionist—faced off against Abraham Lincoln on the issue of slavery," Cauterucci emphasized.

While the historical blunder will likely be corrected before the bill becomes a debated topic of discussion next week, Cauterucci is shedding light on the bigger picture and the problem it poses.

"The bill also includes deliberate attempts to censor teachers and reshape the facts of U.S. history to flatter white men—the sorts of provisions Republican lawmakers have been advancing in state legislatures across the country in a manufactured panic over the supposed teaching of critical race theory," Cauterucci wrote. "(In November, Virginia ousted its Democratic governor in favor of Republican Glenn Youngkin, who made the issue a pillar of his campaign.)"

She also noted how the bill would also serve as a legislative mechanism to advance Republicans' attack on critical race theory as it would censor teachers from speaking truth in classrooms.

"The Virginia bill would prohibit instructors from teaching that the U.S. is 'systemically racist or sexist' or that 'the ideology of equity of outcomes is superior to the ideology of equality…of opportunities.' It would also ban school boards from hiring anyone 'with the job title of equity director or diversity director or a substantially similar title.'”

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