Moments before stepping on stage at a November 2 campaign rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania, President Trump posted to his Twitter feed: “Just signed an order to establish the 1776 Commission. We will stop the radical indoctrination of our students and restore PATRIOTIC EDUCATION to our schools!”
He then stepped on stage and paraphrased his tweet, saying, “I just signed that executive order to teach your students pro-American values.”
This move was telegraphed months again, when Trump announced the idea in September in response to the statues of slave-owners and Confederate generals, most of them erected during the Civil Rights movement, being removed as more and more people objected to the message they sent.
The executive order directs the Department of Education, or specifically Trump Appointee Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, to set up a “1776 Commission” to review state curricula and judge whether or not they “promote patriotic education.” States which fail this bar will no longer receive federal resources for education.
“A restoration of American education grounded in the principles of our founding that is accurate, honest, unifying, inspiring, and ennobling must ultimately succeed at the local level,” the 1776 Commission order says. But history is not meant to be inspiring or ennobling, and to say that it is makes the first claim in the statement, accuracy, a lie.
The current administration is making a very bold and bald-faced statement that patriotism, not facts, should define what is taught in schools.
“We are here today to declare that we will never submit to tyranny. We will reclaim our history and our country for citizens of every race, color, religion, and creed,” the president said about the matter in a speech on September 17. But the only citizens mentioned in this order are the American founders. And it shouldn’t need to be said, but they don’t need protection.
We hope enough people have taken civics and history classes to understand that threatening to defund state education systems if their education curricula aren’t sufficiently “patriotic” enough is one more step toward fascism.