Donald Trump announced the 1776 Commission to promote the “patriotic education” of Americans – in response to curricula that he says divide citizens about slavery and racial inequality and teach them to “hate their own country.”
The decree was issued shortly after the incumbent criticized historical surveys “vilifying” the founders of the nation, as well as Project 1619, led by The New York Times, which revisits the country’s history with an emphasis on slavery and African American contributions. “A radical view of American history lacks perspective, ignores merits, exaggerates shortcomings, distorts motives and facts, which leads to hiding the truth and distorting history. The White House said in a statement. Failure to identify, challenge and correct this distorted view could destroy and ultimately erase the bonds that bind our country and culture together.
According to Trump, the commission is needed to “enable the younger generation to better understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776.” As part of the initiative, the president will appoint 20 commissioners for a period of two years. They are expected to include secretaries of state, ministers of defense, interior, housing and urban development and education, as well as aides to the president for domestic policy and intergovernmental affairs. The Commission is tasked with writing a report on “the basic principles of America’s founding and how these principles can contribute to our quest for a better Union and interpreted to further exploit the benefits of freedom.” It must also ensure that Americans have the opportunity to receive a “patriotic education” in national parks, museums, structures, landmarks, cemeteries, monuments, and other places of importance to the American Revolution and the founding of the country.
A number of educators and historians have criticized Trump’s plan even when he first announced it in September. William R. Ferris, professor of history at the University of North Carolina, cited the initiative as an example of Trump “treating historians the same way he treats scientists, ignoring our best voices for American history and race.” Rather than creating a commission, Ferris urged Trump to solicit Congress assistance for existing programs in American history teaching. Professor of New York University Diane Silvers Ravich, in turn, noted that the federal government has no authority to change the school curriculum, since it depends on each of the states in particular, and said that the president is trying to “whitewash” history.