This afternoon, President Trump signed an “Executive Order Establishing the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission.” The order marks an important step in Trump’s efforts to foster patriotic education.
Stanley Kurtz says of the Order:
The text is longer and more substantive than typical presidential EOs. It offers sharp criticisms of current educational trends, a definition and explanation of patriotic education, as well as a vision for how to realize it.
Following Trump’s remarks at the White House Conference on American History, the president was criticized by some on the left both for favoring a simplistic view of patriotism and for trying to force a curriculum on schools in violation of local control. This EO refutes both criticisms.
Trump’s EO does offer strong criticisms of “polemics grounded in poor scholarship” that vilify “our Founders and our founding.” The president evidently has Howard Zinn and the 1619 Project in mind.
“Despite the virtues and accomplishments of this Nation, many students are now taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but rather villains,” the EO continues. The order rakes this approach over the coals for a time, then says, “Failing to identify, challenge, and correct this distorted perspective could fray and ultimately erase the bonds that knit our country and culture together.”
Race, of course, is the jumping off for leftists who want America’s students to hold negative views about America. The Executive Order seeks to counter this mode of indoctrination:
[T]he EO highlights a legacy too often ignored: “our country’s valiant and successful effort to shake off the curse of slavery and to use the lessons of that struggle to guide our work toward equal rights for all citizens in the present.”. . .
Trump’s EO. . .emphasizes our shared striving: “Viewing America as an irredeemably and systemically racist country cannot account for the extraordinary role of the great heroes of the American movement against slavery and for civil rights — a great moral endeavor that, from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr., was marked by religious fellowship, good will, generosity of heart, and emphasis on our shared principles, and an inclusive vision for the future.”
The EO’s focus, though, is on America’s true founding:
Throughout, Trump’s EO emphasizes the principles of America’s founding as the key to our history — above all God-given natural rights. The EO warns: “Without our common faith in the equal right of every individual American to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, authoritarian visions of government and society could become increasingly alluring alternatives to self-government based on the consent of the people.” The rise of an anti-free-speech American radicalism on campus and beyond makes this principled warning all too timely.
“Thus,” the EO continues, “it is necessary to provide America’s young people access to what is genuinely inspiring and unifying in our history, as well as to the lessons imparted by the American experience of overcoming great national challenges.” An “informed and honest patriotism is essential for a successful republic,” this part of the EO concludes.
Trump’s EO empowers the 1776 Commission to produce and publicly disseminate a report within a year. That report shall discuss “the core principles of the American founding and how these principles may be understood to further enjoyment of ‘the blessings of liberty’ and to promote our striving ‘to form a more perfect union.” In other words, says Kurtz, “the 1776 Commission, likely to be populated by some of America’s finest historians and scholars, will produce a report on the meaning of the Founding, on how American history can be understood as a struggle to realize our founding principles, and on how best to teach all this to the rising generation.”
But President Trump’s order doesn’t entail imposing his vision of patriotic education on the nation. Instead, he calls on local communities to reassert control over the curriculum.
Isn’t it great to have a president who views America with pride, who is willing, unabashedly, to defend our founding, and who will contest the views of radicals seeking to enlist an all-too-complicit education establishment in tearing America down? If Joe Biden wins the election, we won’t have such a president.
What will happen to the 1776 Commission if Biden wins? Would he abolish it? That would take nerve.
I think it’s more likely that Biden would place left-wing historians on the commission. They would either control the commission and issue a very different kind of report or else throw the commission into a deadlock from which no report would emerge.
This is another reason why President Trump deserves the support of conservatives, moderates, and old-fashioned, patriotic liberals.