First Principles

A New American Civics Portal

While the Real Clear Foundation’s project will not shy away from the injustices that have taken place throughout our nation’s history—including slavery and racism—those will be depicted rightly as departures from America’s founding principles.

The Real Clear Foundation has launched a new American civics education portal, dedicated to renewing civic education in the United States.

If one good thing has come out of this season of quarantine, it’s that parents, forced to homeschool, are getting to see the unpatriotic and liberal curriculum public schools are teaching. In a recent article at the Federalist, Beth Freeley wrote about a world history assignment on gender theory (parents raising “theybies”) and a physics assignment on critical race theory that her freshman received from his public school. Evidently, a supplemental source like Real Clear’s American Civics Portal could not have come at a better time.

Though the American Civics Portal is not a direct response to the New York Times’ “1619 Project” it is “more than an answer” to it, David DesRosiers, publisher of RealClearPolitics, wrote in an email.

The “1619 Project” is an initiative by the New York Times and the Pulitzer Center to reeducate Americans about American history. They seek to teach school children that America’s real founding date is not July 4, 1776—the day the United States declared independence from Great Britain—but 1619, the year slaves were first brought to Jamestown.

Even now, One World, an imprint of Penguin Random House, is working to turn the “1619 Project” into a series of books. This will include new and expanded essays as well as fiction and poetry. Further, according to Pulitzer’s Annual Report, more than 3,500 classrooms around the nation have been given free copies of the “1619” curriculum. That represents more than 100,000 students who are learning that, as Nicole Hannah-Jones puts it in her flagship essay, our founding principles were a lie.

In contrast “RealClear’s American Civics web portal gives students, teachers, and citizens-in-the-making a clear understanding of our nation’s founding principles and history,” stated DesRosiers. “We draw upon the best resources, research, and scholarly writing in order to educate and inspire a new generation of Americans,” he said.

According to RealClear’s website, the project seeks to give readers insight on topics such as inalienable rights, the Constitution, and civic virtue. Included in this project is the 1776 Series, essays that explore founding principles such as the nature of self-government and the republican nature of the U.S. Constitution. Further, this collection of essays will include modern topics of political import such as balancing individual freedom and national security.

Of the 1776 series, DesRosiers wrote, “We see that [the] soul of America finds its articulation in the Declaration of Independence and its New Order of the Ages ambitions. To say that it’s 1619—as the New York Times does—is to introduce a falsehood into our educational system.”

As a whole, this portal masterfully deals with America’s failures and successes without offering either a wholesale condemnation or exoneration. In the project’s introductory essay “American Civics in the Time of Coronavirus,” Carl M. Cannon states that the essays and resources will not present a “sanitized version of America.” He writes,

Lady Liberty is sufficiently beautiful that her blemishes needn’t be powdered over. On the other hand, modern revisionists mainly present a warts-only view of the United States. “American Civics” will do neither. The reigning ethos here will be that the country has nothing to hide and much to be proud of.

While this project will not shy away from the injustices that have taken place throughout our nation’s history—including slavery and racism—they will rightly be shown as departures from our founding principles.

The portal is arranged topically. Those doing research can click on one of several categories such as: EqualityLiberty, and Race and Slavery. Other topics will soon be added that cover self-government, citizenship, the U.S. Constitution, and more. Under each category are numerous informative essays to read. Also on the portal is a list of essential American civics readings that can serve as a source for teachers and students alike.

Tom Tacoma, assistant professor of history and political science at Blue Mountain College, said of the new American Civics Portal,

A fairly large proportion of my students want to be high school history teachers, so I think just exposing them to Real Clear’s Civics portal will be helpful to them as they look to their future careers . . . From what I’ve read already [RealClear has published] thoughtful pieces by top scholars and that’s exactly what I want to incorporate in my classes.

DesRosiers said he hopes teachers will find the page helpful. “This Civics portal brings together primary sources, video, and sample curricula to give students a clearer understanding of their nation’s principles and history.”

After COVID-19 we will need a renewed understanding of American civics to repair the economy and our political culture, Cannon writes. He argues that America has always met existential threats by summoning our inner resources.

Narratives such as the one taught by the “1619 Project” are distorting the understanding of the principles that made Americans capable of overcoming monumental obstacles. In times of war and trouble, our leaders have always been able to refer to America’s founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence to inspire people with its soaring language and ideals. Yet, if Nicole Hannah-Jones and the New York Times have their way Americans will no longer revere such things, but will look upon all of American history with cynicism.

Unlike the “1619 Project,” the 1776 Series and RealClear’s Civics Education Portal takes an optimistic look at American history. It is a breath of fresh air in a time when our nation needs it most.