- A new anti-critical-race-theory bill that would regulate teaching in the state has an error in it about Abraham Lincoln.
- Language in the bill inaccurately states that Lincoln debated abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
- The lawmaker who submitted the bill said the error was included due to a mistake by a state agency that made edits to it.
A new Virginia bill that would regulate what history teachers in the state can teach included a factual error about former President Abraham Lincoln.
But the Republican lawmaker who submitted the bill said the blunder was included due to a mistake by a state agency that made edits to the legislation.
House bill No. 781, proposed by newly-minted Republican Del. Wren Williams this month, seeks to prohibit “divisive concepts” from instruction in Virginia public elementary and secondary schools.
The bill would standardize social studies curriculum taught in schools and aims to have instructors teach about the “founding documents of the United States,” which the bill includes as “the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers, including Essays 10 and 51, excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, and the writings of the Founding Fathers of the United States.”
But Lincoln did not debate abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
The famed Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 in Illinois were between incumbent Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas and Lincoln, his Republican challenger in the senate race. The extension of slavery into American territories was the central issue of the debates.
Virginia’s Division of Legislative Services said on Thursday that the error in the bill “was inserted during the drafting process” by the agency.
“The erroneous citation of Frederick Douglass, in relation to the Lincoln-Douglas debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, was inserted at the drafting level, following receipt of a historically accurate request from the office of Delegate Wren Williams,” the agency said.
An aide for Williams pointed Insider to Williams’ statement about the matter to Townhall.com.
“Of course, I’m frustrated this happened. I have a very high standard for my office, and my service to my constituents and the Commonwealth,” Williams told the website.
He added, “But I realize that mistakes happen. I trust this was an honest mistake, and I don’t hold it against Legislative Services.”
“The good news here is that this bill is getting the attention it deserves. This is groundbreaking legislation for Virginia’s education system that is aimed at finally accomplishing what Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned: A generation of Americans who see each other not based on the color of their skin, but the content of their character,” Williams said.
Williams, a lawyer who was sworn in as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday, announced in June that his first bill would “ban the teaching of critical race theory.”
“The indoctrination of our children in Critical Race Theory is appalling and will prove fatal to our nation,” Williams said at the time. “We should be teaching our students that they are created equal, and to understand the past and present in a way that fosters grace and unity, not hatred and division.”
Critical race theory — an academic concept not widely used outside university-level instruction — has become a frequent punching bag for conservative politicians and commentators, resulting in numerous legislation being proposed at the state level to regulate how teachers discuss sensitive topics in classrooms.