In the fall of 2020, former President Donald Trump established the 1776 Commission to promote “patriotic education” (by which they really meant “nationalist propaganda”) in public schools. The commission, which consisted of 18 of Trump’s allies but no historians and only two educators at all, was intended to promote a curriculum promoting American exceptionalism instead of historical facts or contexts. It was consistent with former President Trump’s attacks on critical race theory, which is a context-based approach to education about history that places slavery and colonialism as major parts of American history, not a footnote to be brushed aside. But the Biden administration isn’t having any of it. On his first day in office, President Biden and his team disbanded the committee and removed its “1776 Report” from the White House website.
Here’s some background information on the 1776 Report: It was released on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021, just two days before the end of the Trump presidency. The document says that progress and racial awareness are “challenges to American principles” and compares teaching about them to communism, slavery, and fascism. It also criticizes feminism as “genocidal” and identifies American universities as enemies of the state. With the power of the Presidency behind it, the report recommends that schools, parents, and the arts teach only positive imagery of the country founders. In a final condemnation of itself, the report included no citations of sources and not one of the authors was willing to sign it.
In one of President Joe Biden’s first couple of dozen executive orders, he signed an order to dissolve the 1776 Commission and refute its report, an important move if America is to re-establish any credibility in our education system. Biden’s aides are saying that these first executive orders are all to address the “converging crises” left to Biden by the outgoing Trump.
Another of Biden’s Day 1 executive orders has also been of great educational importance: He has extended the moratorium on federal student loan interest and principal payments through at least September 2021, giving relief to the many students affected by pandemic income loss.
Photo: President Joe Biden takes his oath of office at the January 20, 2021, inauguration. Credit: mccv / Shutterstock.com