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Like many other people, I was thrilled to hear about Donald Trump’s formation of the 16-member, President’s Advisory 1776 Commission. Finally, someone was prepared to take on the propaganda and lies that were being taught to our schoolchildren and at last begin to correct the record, but the Left began to fight back almost immediately. This was the purpose of the Commission:
The declared purpose of the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission is to ‘enable a rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union.’ This requires a restoration of American education, which can only be grounded on a history of those principles that is ‘accurate, honest, unifying, inspiring, and ennobling.’ And a rediscovery of our shared identity rooted in our founding principles is the path to a renewed American unity and a confident American future.
To demonstrate how powerful the report and its conclusions were, President Biden disbanded the commission immediately upon taking office, and removed the report from the White House website. Fortunately, the Heritage Foundation has made the report available to all of us.
The report addresses the following areas: The Meaning of the Declaration of Independence; the U.S. Constitution; the Challenges to America’s Principles; Discussions of Slavery, Progressivism, Fascism and Communism, Racism and Identity Politics; The Task of National Renewal; Teaching America; A Scholarship of Freedom; the American Mind; and the Reverence for the Laws. They packed a great deal of information into 20 pages plus four appendices.
No conservative should be surprised at the backlash and harsh criticism that the report received, in spite of the credibility of its members (who are listed at the end of the report). I thought it would be a revealing exercise to look at some of the criticisms that were made and compare them to the content and purpose of the report.
One of the complaints was that no historians were included on the Commission; the wisdom of this decision was clear to me. Many historians today are firmly embedded in Leftist ideology and are not interested in facts. From their standpoint, the 1619 Project did an admirable job of correcting American history. Not true. Instead, the 1619 Project invented facts and distorted U.S. history, and its intention to discredit America and its Founders was obvious to anyone who knows anything about American history. A detailed report was written by other historians that explained the distortions and lies that were written into the Project.
As a result, the critics were outraged at the Commission’s goals and its report. Here was one of several criticisms :
‘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.’
I suspect Professor Blight doesn’t understand the meaning of critical thinking (perhaps he thinks it means criticizing someone or something). He also might have felt slighted because, as a historian, he wasn’t invited to join the Commission.
I especially appreciated Carol Swaim’s comment regarding the negative comments the Report received. (She is a former law and political science professor at Vanderbilt University, and co-chair of the Commission):
‘Professional historians take themselves too seriously,’ she said in an interview. ‘I see the criticism as being ideologically driven.’
The harshest critiques were about the ways the report addressed slavery and race. First, the Report stated that slavery didn’t begin in the United States. Then the Commission wrote a short summary of how the Founders tried to deal with slavery:
The foundation of our Republic planted the seeds of the death of slavery in America. The Declaration’s unqualified proclamation of human equality flatly contradicted the existence of human bondage and, along with the Constitution’s compromises understood in light of that proposition, set the stage for abolition. Indeed, the movement to abolish slavery that first began in the United States led the way in bringing about the end of legal slavery.
The Founders who owned slaves declared that the abolition of slavery must be pursued in this country. They also realized that it could not be abolished overnight without destroying the nation; that was the dilemma that Abraham Lincoln was facing.
The Report was also attacked by a Boston University professor:
Ibram X. Kendi, a scholar and historian of racism at Boston University, called the report ‘the last great lie from a Trump administration of great lies.’
‘If we have commonly been given preferential treatment, then why do Black people remain on the lower and dying end of nearly every racial disparity?’ Kendi said on Twitter. ‘Whenever they answer this question, they express racist ideas of Black inferiority while claiming they are ‘not racist.’
It’s not surprising that Professor Kendi couldn’t resist attacking President Trump as part of his diatribe. And I’m quite certain that Professor Kendi doesn’t see the irony of his next comment. When you give things to people that they don’t earn, they have no incentive to strive for a better life. I’ve not seen evidence of ideas expressed about “Black inferiority” either. But then I expect that the Professor is more interested in attacking Donald Trump and defending his ideology than genuinely wanting to provide a good, honest education for all Americans.
I found this criticism especially telling:
In one passage jeered by historians, the authors [of the Report] draw a comparison between the progressive movement in America and fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, said the report is intended to discredit contemporary public policies rooted in America’s progressive reform movement. He worries that, even after Biden dissolved the commission, its report could end up in some classrooms.
Given the fascistic and socialistic tendencies of Progressivism to date, I suspect Mr. Grossman didn’t think to explore the possible relationships between Mussolini and Progressivism. And I was amused, after all the years of Leftist propaganda being taught as legitimate history, that he was worried that the Report might still show up in some classrooms. What might happen if students learned the truth?
* * * * *
The report was meant to be a beginning for a legitimate, meaningful, and truthful story of America’s early years. The people who served on the Commission are dedicated to ensuring that their efforts are not in vain. Some of them will make certain that the report is available on other websites. I suspect that Larry Arndt, co-chair of the Commission, is currently ensuring this type of curriculum is available at his Barney Charter Schools which are being built all over the country. The report concluded with this statement:
To be an American means something noble and good. It means treasuring freedom and embracing the vitality of self-government. We are shaped by the beauty, bounty, and wildness of our continent. We are united by the glory of our history. And we are distinguished by the American virtues of openness, honesty, optimism, determination, generosity, confidence, kindness, hard work, courage, and hope. Our principles did not create these virtues, but they laid the groundwork for them to grow and spread and forge America into the most just and glorious country in all of human history.
May our children one day finally learn the truth about, and have reason to be proud of, our great country.Published in