Biden revokes Trump report promoting 'patriotic education' in schools

In an executive order signed in his first day in office, Biden disband Donald Trump's presidential 1776 Commission and withdrew a report it released Monday
Joe Biden (Pic: AP)
Joe Biden (Pic: AP)

President Joe Biden on Wednesday revoked a recent Trump administration report that aimed to promote patriotic education in schools but that historians mocked and rejected as political propaganda. In an executive order signed in his first day in office, Biden disband Donald Trump's presidential 1776 Commission and withdrew a report it released Monday. Trump established the group in September to rally support from white voters and as a response to The New York Times' 1619 Project, which highlights the lasting consequences of slavery in America.

In its report, which Trump hoped would be used in classrooms across the nation, the commission glorifies the country's founders, plays down America's role in slavery, condemns the rise of progressive politics and argues that the civil rights movement ran afoul of the “lofty ideals” espoused by the Founding Fathers.

The panel, which included no professional historians of the United States, complained of false and fashionable ideologies that depict the country's story as one of oppression and victimhood. Instead, it called for renewed efforts to foster a brave and honest love for our country. Historians widely panned the report, saying it offers a false and outdated version of American history that ignores decades of research.

It's an insult to the whole enterprise of education. Education is supposed to help young people learn to think critically, said David Blight, a Civil War historian at Yale University. That report is a piece of right-wing propaganda. Trump officials heralded the report as a definitive chronicle of the American founding, but scholars say it disregards the most basic rules of scholarship. It offers no citations, for example, or a list of its source materials.

It also includes several passages copied directly from other writings by members of the panel, as one professor found after running the report through software that's used to detect plagiarism. Matthew Spalding, the panel's executive director and a vice president at the conservative Hillsdale College, denied any wrongdoing, saying the panel's members contributed our own work and writing, under our own names, to the 1776 Report, which was an advisory report to the president.

Spalding and other commission leaders did not immediately respond to other criticism levelled against the report. In his order dissolving the panel, Biden said it “sought to erase America's history of racial injustice. The American Historical Association condemned the document, saying it glorifies the founders while ignoring the histories and contributions of enslaved people, Indigenous communities and women.

In a statement also signed by 13 other academic groups, the organisation says the report seeks government indoctrination of American students. The sharpest criticism of the report was directed at its presentation of slavery and race. The report attempts to undermine allegations of hypocrisy against Founding Fathers who owned slaves even as they espoused equality. It also attempts to soften America's role in slavery and explain it as a product of the times.

Many Americans labour under the illusion that slavery was somehow a uniquely American evil,” the panel wrote in the 20-page report. The unfortunate fact is that the institution of slavery has been more the rule than the exception throughout human history. Blight, at Yale, compared it to “a sixth or seventh grade kind of approach to history to make the children feel good. He added: But it's worse than that, because it comes out of an agenda of political propaganda.

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