President Trump’s 1776 Commission, formed to promote “patriotic education,” on Monday released a final report touted by the White House as offering “a definitive chronicle of the American founding.”
The 45-page report slams “destructive scholarship” that it says misrepresents the history of slavery and racial discrimination.
“States and school districts should reject any curriculum that promotes one-sided partisan opinions, activist propaganda, or factional ideologies that demean America’s heritage, dishonor our heroes, or deny our principles,” the report says.
Trump created the commission last year to counter denunciations of the Founding Fathers during national anti-police brutality protests. The report was released less than 48 hours before Trump leaves office.
The document says, “Deliberately destructive scholarship shatters the civic bonds that unite all Americans. It silences the discourse essential to a free society by breeding division, distrust, and hatred among citizens. And it is the intellectual force behind so much of the violence in our cities, suppression of free speech in our universities, and defamation of our treasured national statues and symbols.”
Trump established the commission in part in response to a national movement to remove or deface the statues of slaveholders or colonial figures. Trump critics, however, vowed to resist his push to put a rosier spin on US history.
The new report slams the current education of students, saying, “Colleges peddle resentment and contempt for American principles and history alike, in the process and historical truth, shames Americans by highlighting only the sins of their ancestors, and teaches claims of systemic racism that can only be eliminated by more discrimination, is an ideology intended to manipulate opinions more than educate minds,” the report says.
The report says that the US is exceptionable because, “No one is above the law” — a cliche recently applied by President-elect Joe Biden to Trump after his supporters stormed the Capitol and disrupted certification of the election.
“Patriotic education must have at its center a respect for the rule of law, including the Declaration and the Constitution, so that we have what John Adams called ‘a government of laws, and not of men,’” the report says.
The report argues against presenting slavery as an indelible sin of the Founding Fathers.
“The most common charge levelled against the founders, and hence against our country itself, is that they were hypocrites who didn’t believe in their stated principles, and therefore the country they built rests on a lie. This charge is untrue, and has done enormous damage, especially in recent years, with a devastating effect on our civic unity and social fabric,” the report says, adding: “Many Americans labor under the illusion that slavery was somehow a uniquely American evil.”
The report argues that in fact, “The foundation of our Republic planted the seeds of the
death of slavery in America.”
“It is important to remember that, as a question of practical politics, no durable union could have been formed without a compromise among the states on the issue of slavery. Is it reasonable to believe that slavery could have been abolished sooner had the slave states not been in a union with the free? Perhaps. But what is momentous is that a people that included slaveholders founded their nation on the proposition that ‘all men are created equal.; So why did they say that without immediately abolishing slavery? To establish the principle of consent as the ground of all political legitimacy and to check against any possible future drift toward or return to despotism, for sure. But also, in Lincoln’s words, ‘to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit,’” the report says.
The commission was chaired by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn. Retired Vanderbilt University political science professor Carol Swain was co-chair of the initiative and the commission’s executive director was Hillsdale College government professor Matthew Spalding.
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