Defying the Left’s War on US History

 

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.’

You think?

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 Education
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  1. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn: 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.

    Hopefully Heritage won’t be deplatformed, but watch for the left to try.

    Of course, you’re right.  The one thing the left fears is a serious debate, so anything that challenges their narrative must be silenced.  As many people say, that tells you the confidence they have in their arguments . . .

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn:

    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.

     

    Preach it, sister!

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):
    Of course, you’re right. The one thing the left fears is a serious debate, so anything that challenges their narrative must be silenced. As many people say, that tells you the confidence they have in their arguments . . .

    I was amazed at the speed with which Biden disbanded the Commission and banished the report. Clearly his handlers saw all of it as a threat, or they wouldn’t have acted so quickly. We have to keep pounding away at their nonsense!

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):
    Preach it, sister!

    Thank you and amen!

    • #4
  5. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    Susan Quinn: It’s not surprising that Professor Kendi couldn’t resist attacking President Trump as part of his diatribe.

    Kendi graduated high school in 2000.  He majored in African American studies and magazine production at Florida A&M.  He was appointed to Boston University’s new anti-racism department in July.  He has never had an adult job outside academia.

    He should have a sit down with Thomas Sowell.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: It’s not surprising that Professor Kendi couldn’t resist attacking President Trump as part of his diatribe.

    Kendi graduated high school in 2000. He majored in African American studies and magazine production at Florida A&M. He was appointed to Boston University’s new anti-racism department in July. He has never had an adult job outside academia.

    He should have a sit down with Thomas Sowell.

    Thank you for this revealing information, @9thdistrictneighbor! Why am I not surprised?? I think a visit with Thomas Sowell would be good for him, except that he’d never do it–or he’d call him an Uncle Tom. 

    • #6
  7. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    …or he’d call him an Uncle Tom. 

    Guaranteed he does not understand the origin of this reference…and that Tom is the hero of the story.

    • #7
  8. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    I might have to get me a Bennington flag.

    Bennington flag - Wikipedia

     

     

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn: The Report was also attacked by a Boston University professor:

    Boston University? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez graduated Boston University with a double major in international relations and economics, and that is all you need to know about Boston University.

    • #9
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The way you teach critical thinking is to give the students two sides of an argument and have them sort through the dichotomy. It is not taught by downloading guff into their otherwise empty noggins.

    The students won’t come out educated as much as indoctrinated.

    • #10
  11. JamesSalerno Coolidge
    JamesSalerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Ideally, we wouldn’t have a 1619 Project or a 1776 Project. Education should be left to our local governments. This way, we have a say over what our schools teach. You have much more of a direct line to your local school board than you do to Washington DC. Unfortunately, these schools have become so addicted to the funding they get from the central government, they wouldn’t know how to operate without it.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    The way you teach critical thinking is to give the students two sides of an argument and have them sort through the dichotomy. It is not taught by downloading guff into their otherwise empty noggins.

    The students won’t come out educated as much as indoctrinated.

    Precisely. But of course, the good professor would disagree with you, Percival!

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JamesSalerno (View Comment):

    Ideally, we wouldn’t have a 1619 Project or a 1776 Project. Education should be left to our local governments. This way, we have a say over what our schools teach. You have much more of a direct line to your local school board than you do to Washington DC. Unfortunately, these schools have become so addicted to the funding they get from the central government, they wouldn’t know how to operate without it.

    You are spot on, James. And the dilemma is that the Left has infiltrated local government and the parents have not been paying attention. So instead of an education, they’re getting brainwashed.

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    The way you teach critical thinking is to give the students two sides of an argument and have them sort through the dichotomy. It is not taught by downloading guff into their otherwise empty noggins.

    The students won’t come out educated as much as indoctrinated.

    Precisely. But of course, the good professor would disagree with you, Percival!

    He’d try. He’d lose. For my heart is pure and the truth is on my side.

    Okay, I made up that stuff about the heart.

    • #14
  15. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Susan Quinn: One of the complaints was that no historians were included on the Commission

    I thought Victor Davis Hanson was on the commission.  Was I mistaken?

    • #15
  16. Mim526 Member
    Mim526
    @Mim526

    Percival (View Comment):

    The way you teach critical thinking is to give the students two sides of an argument and have them sort through the dichotomy. It is not taught by downloading guff into their otherwise empty noggins.

    The students won’t come out educated as much as indoctrinated.

    YES. The choice between “let’s discuss” and shutIting down debate should be obvious.  Lockdown, martial law, forced face covering, forced distancing, forced business closing, rigid curriculum on one hand…freedom to loot, burn, destroy and tear down history with impunity on the other…gee, who could possibly object?

    • #16
  17. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    1619 is now the new official history of the land.  To say otherwise makes you a racist, terrorist that will be watch by the state for subversive tendencies.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: One of the complaints was that no historians were included on the Commission

    I thought Victor Davis Hanson was on the commission. Was I mistaken?

    You are correct. But I suspect, in spite of his excellent credentials, that they would call him, at best, a political writer, or at worst, a partisan hack. Much of his background is in the classics (which they would spurn) and military history (good grief!) You bring up a good point, though, Dr. 

    • #18
  19. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    One of the more insidious aspects of this is the attempt to discredit the “white” and the “male”–no matter how knowledgeable– from having a legitimate opinion.  The roots of this line of thought are in the attacks on the Wester Civ curriculum going back several years, but, as with most things on the left, it keeps swallowing more and more, sort of like The Blob.

    There are numerous historians of a fairly advanced ages who have spent a good deal of their lives chronicling our history, only to be displaced by dilettantes of questionable credentials who are of the “right” race or gender.

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    There are numerous historians of a fairly advanced ages who have spent a good deal of their lives chronicling our history, only to be displaced by dilettantes of questionable credentials who are of the “right” race or gender.

    It’s disgusting, isn’t it? I suspect that’s why VDH has been so seriously criticized. White and male? Oh my goodness, no! I think there are many, many people who are being eaten by the “Blob” and may never reappear with any credibility.

    • #20
  21. D.A. Venters Member
    D.A. Venters
    @DAVenters

    Susan Quinn:

    … 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…

    …..

    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.

    I agree with the purpose of the commission – I mean, as long as we’re going to have the Fed. Gov. involved in the curricula at all, it’s a worthy goal.  My concern is how they went about it.  If the report ends up being viewed as a politically driven piece of propaganda, then it’s not going to accomplish that purpose.  It will just get trashed as soon as a new administration comes in, which, of course, is exactly what happened.  So, as a result, nothing changes in the classrooms.  If the true purpose was to give conservatives a (yet another) rallying cry against the media and academia, then ok – it can do that.  And did that. But that’s not worth much, in terms of actually moving the ball on what kids are learning.

    If they really want to accomplish this purpose, then the shrewd move is to get some serious historians and academics on the commission.  They’re going to have some influence, of course, so the end product won’t be the touchdown that you’re hoping for, but the more right-leaning folks will have an impact, too, and so the ball will be moved in the conservative direction.  If you have buy-in from the academics, it’s more difficult for the Biden administration to just pitch it out the window.  In fact, they may not pay any attention to it at all.  

    When my son first got a Madden NFL football video game, he was only about 7 or 8 years old.  Even though I had never played it, and could barely figure out the controller, I could beat him every time (If I tried to).  That’s because he would try the hail-Mary on every single play.  He did not get the concept of driving down the field with short gains here and there.  Same idea with this controversy.  Go slow and make real gains.

    Unless, again, the real purpose was just to dig up another wedge issue in the culture war.

     

     

    • #21
  22. Raxxalan Member
    Raxxalan
    @Raxxalan

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: The Report was also attacked by a Boston University professor:

    Boston University? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez graduated Boston University with a double major in international relations and economics, and that is all you need to know about Boston University.

    Considering Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning economic illiteracy that does indeed tell us all we need to know about Boston University.  If they had any shame they would refund her tuition on the condition that she not mention that she is an alumni. 

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    If they really want to accomplish this purpose, then the shrewd move is to get some serious historians and academics on the commission. They’re going to have some influence, of course, so the end product won’t be the touchdown that you’re hoping for, but the more right-leaning folks will have an impact, too, and so the ball will be moved in the conservative direction. If you have buy-in from the academics, it’s more difficult for the Biden administration to just pitch it out the window. In fact, they may not pay any attention to it at all.

    Fair points, D.A. Actually they originally intended to expand the Commission. Also there are academicians on the Commission, and there might even be historians (like Victor Davis Hansen). Larry Arndt and Carol Swaim are serious academics; they just don’t buy into the Leftist rhetoric. Swaim, if anyone cares, is black.

    I don’t know if the Commission will continue; I hope it will, and the strategy for expansion that you offer makes sense to me. I also think that working independently from the government might be a good idea. Keep in mind that this report at 20 pages (I believe) is simply an introduction to their overall plan. Let’s hope they proceed wisely.

    • #23
  24. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    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.

    I agree with the purpose of the commission – I mean, as long as we’re going to have the Fed. Gov. involved in the curricula at all, it’s a worthy goal. My concern is how they went about it. If the report ends up being viewed as a politically driven piece of propaganda, then it’s not going to accomplish that purpose. It will just get trashed as soon as a new administration comes in, which, of course, is exactly what happened. So, as a result, nothing changes in the classrooms. If the true purpose was to give conservatives a (yet another) rallying cry against the media and academia, then ok – it can do that. And did that. But that’s not worth much, in terms of actually moving the ball on what kids are learning.

    If they really want to accomplish this purpose, then the shrewd move is to get some serious historians and academics on the commission. They’re going to have some influence, of course, so the end product won’t be the touchdown that you’re hoping for, but the more right-leaning folks will have an impact, too, and so the ball will be moved in the conservative direction. If you have buy-in from the academics, it’s more difficult for the Biden administration to just pitch it out the window. In fact, they may not pay any attention to it at all.

    When my son first got a Madden NFL football video game, he was only about 7 or 8 years old. Even though I had never played it, and could barely figure out the controller, I could beat him every time (If I tried to). That’s because he would try the hail-Mary on every single play. He did not get the concept of driving down the field with short gains here and there. Same idea with this controversy. Go slow and make real gains.

    Unless, again, the real purpose was just to dig up another wedge issue in the culture war.

    And yet a politically-driven piece of propaganda authored by a newspaper reporter is now firmly embedded so that it’s influencing school curricula.  While I agree that, in an ideal world, a “true” commission would include historians of expertise, the likely fact is that their views would be discounted anyway to the extent that they support a traditional narrative of our history (white, male, blah, blah, blah).  My guess is that the “success” of the 1619 Project influenced a decision to get “something” out in the public square to counter the Project.  It’s only a sign of the times that that those who criticize the Commission are just fine with the Project.

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    And yet a politically-driven piece of propaganda authored by a newspaper reporter is now firmly embedded so that it’s influencing school curricula. While I agree that, in an ideal world, a “true” commission would include historians of expertise, the likely fact is that their views would be discounted anyway to the extent that they support a traditional narrative of our history (white, male, blah, blah, blah). My guess is that the “success” of the 1619 Project influenced a decision to get “something” out in the public square to counter the Project. It’s only a sign of the times that that those who criticize the Commission are just fine with the Project.

    I don’t know the intention of the Commission aside from what they said in the purpose statement (in the OP). Knowing the work that Larry Arndt does, in particular, I don’t think it was intended to be a one-shot effort. The Hillsdale College is busy creating its charter schools: “Currently, Hillsdale has  24 charter schools in 11 states, with more than 12,000 students. Four more schools will open next year and 4 to 6 more are expected to open by 2022.” 

    We need to continue to make inroads into education, and teaming of Hillsdale and the Commission offers us hope. 

    • #25
  26. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Thanks, Susan. I downloaded the 1776 report this afternoon. Those who have not should. 

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Thanks, Susan. I downloaded the 1776 report this afternoon. Those who have not should.

    That’s great, Hartmann. Also, the appendices are rich with information.

    • #27
  28. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And the dilemma is that the Left has infiltrated local government and the parents have not been paying attention.

    As a non-parent (both sons are 40+), but tax paying citizen, I have found that is is extremely difficult to find what textbooks and other materials are used to teach in my local schools.

    If I had it to do over again, I would do everything I could to home-school.

    Actually, the Covid driven remote teaching has made it necessary for parents to participate in their kids schooling.  I expect (and hope) that will result in a realization of the degree of brainwashing that is going on.

     

    (edit : home -> hope)

    • #28
  29. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Percival (View Comment):

    The way you teach critical thinking is to give the students two sides of an argument and have them sort through the dichotomy. It is not taught by downloading guff into their otherwise empty noggins.

    The students won’t come out educated as much as indoctrinated.

    Exactly.  It’s not realistic to expect that all historians will be down-the-middle, 100% objective in their writing.  (I found that out as I was researching various military leaders from the Revolutionary War up to today.)  

    However, writings such as A People’s History of the United States and the 1619 Project are such trash that they can’t possibly be thought of as history.  Both Howard Zinn and the New York Times have the freedom to publish these but they, and writings like them, should be moved to the Black Studies or Sociology sections of both book stores and academia.

    • #29
  30. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    WillowSpring (View Comment):
    Actually, the Covid driven remote teaching has made it necessary for parents to participate in their kids schooling. I expect (and home) that will result in a realization of the degree of brainwashing that is going on.

    Remember that teachers were trying to tell parents they were not allowed to listen in to  the remote learning sessions? They just didn’t want their kids to feel self-conscious with a parent looking over their shoulders. I’ll bet.

    • #30