1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones started a social media exchange in which she mocked someone for pointing out that the complaints she had about children of colour facing disadvantages in the school system could be rectified by offering all students freedom of school choice.
Hannah-Jones, whose version of American history presented in the New York Times’ 1619 Project has been criticized by noted historians, stated, “School choice literally came about to stymie integration, but nice try.”
Hannah-Jones’ remarks prompted those well-versed in American history to criticise her, blasting the remark as historically inaccurate. Hannah-Jones had initiated the exchange on Twitter by tweeting, “All you have to do is talk about is integrating schools to see the truth about how poorly people of every political stripe think of Black children.”
“I think I will never get over how disdainfully people talk about 10, 11-year-old children as lacking talents & gifts & being undeserving of the same educations they absolutely demand for their own children, how we think their academic fates should be determined by the 5th grade,” she stated. “Our society ensures certain children live in segregated, struggling neighborhoods, that they are born into disadvantage, then we send them to schools that reinforce that disadvantage, and then we say because they are disadvantaged they deserve to remain so.”
One person responded on Twitter, “School choice would help fix that.”
Which prompted Hannah-Jones’ response, “School choice literally came about to stymie integration, but nice try.”
Hannah-Jones’ assertion sought comments from others, including Corey DeAngelis, Director of School Choice at the Reason Foundation, to share facts about charter schools and voucher programs:
Senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, Phillip Magness, corrected the record on school choice in a 2018 exchange on Carolina Journal Radio:
Carolina Journal Radio: So this really is something that you hear sometimes from people who oppose vouchers or school choice in general: “Wait a minute; you look back to the 50’s and 60’s and this all started from people who wanted to fight the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.” Are they correct?
Magness: Right. So the issue’s much more complicated than that; vouchers do emerge simultaneously with an upheaval in the school system that takes place in the ’50s and ’60s and integration is part of that, but there are also religious movements that are trying to seek alternatives to public education. But the big story here is the free market side, and that’s Milton Friedman, who is kind of father of the modern voucher movement.
So he writes an article in 1955 that sketches out the theory behind vouchers, why competition in schools works, and there’s a footnote in the article that’s often overlooked by the people who make this argument: Friedman is explicit that he is an integrationist, that he is a supporter of integrating the schools and he actually sees vouchers as a means to undermine and defeat and work around segregation, and he even goes on record and says if the choice were only between forced segregation, which is basically the status quo that they had and using government tools to mandate integration he would be unequivocally in the latter category, but he sees vouchers as a better mechanism to bring that about.
Carolina Journal Radio: So basically, Friedman, in his article, stands entirely against this narrative that we’ve heard about.
Magness: Entirely. Yup.