The Critics Are Wrong About the 1776 Commission

President Trump announced a brilliant plan this month to tackle left-wing indoctrination in our schools. Dubbed the “1776 Commission,” the plan would promote patriotic education and counter the New York Times’ pernicious “1619 Project” and other woke curricula that teaches American kids to hate their country.

“Our mission is to defend the legacy of America’s founding, the virtue of America’s heroes, and the nobility of the American character,” Trump said in his announcement speech. “We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country. We want our sons and daughters to know that they are the citizens of the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.

“American parents,” the president added, “are not going to accept indoctrination in our schools, cancel culture at our work, or the repression of traditional faith, culture, and values in the public square.”

The news was greeted with the expected derision and outrage from the Left. Liberals don’t want their education plans challenged or disrupted. They want to teach kids that America was founded on white supremacy and the only redemption for her lies in the eradication of the bad old America. It’s no surprise the 1776 Commission is not popular with them.

Trump’s plan also drew criticism, however, from some conservatives and many libertarians. 

A few conservatives and libertarians see “patriotic education” to be just as bad as woke education. Kids aren’t supposed to learn to love or hate their country—they’re only supposed to learn “critical thinking.” 

Other right-leaning critics are outraged that the federal government would dare to influence curriculum. 

“The federal government shouldn’t dictate what local schools across the country teach—and in the past, conservatives have rightly denounced the idea that it should,” writes Reason senior editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown. She says Trump’s plan “sounds like the sort of propaganda we’ve come to expect from authoritarian regimes.” Brown argues the only solution to woke indoctrination is school choice. 

These arguments are silly and rely on false assumptions. Education, no matter how much we wish it to be so, will not be totally neutral or objective. Teachers will color their lessons with their own biases and views. The Quillette crowd assumes education should be completely bereft of opinions. They imagine American history classes as a long recitation of facts with little analysis. These facts aren’t supposed to engender feelings of pride or disgust—they’re just things you learn. The point of education is to apparently create “free thinking” individualists who really like Bari Weiss and Jordan Peterson. Turning American children into insufferable centrists who can’t stop talking about facts and logic is neither feasible nor desirable.

American education throughout the years sought to instill patriotism in young students, as have most education systems in serious countries. They were taught to honor both local and national heroes and to be inspired by American greatness. The inspirational, patriotic aspects of this history education made learning interesting and easier to remember. A dull recitation of facts bores students and will ensure only that they hate history. 

There is no centrist position in this history debate: you either want kids to learn a patriotic education or you are happy to tolerate an anti-American education. 

The second argument rests on the assumption that local schools should determine their own curriculum. That’s a fair viewpoint and many conservatives would agree with that. The fact remains, however, that schools today rely on the federal government for funding. So long as that is the case, it’s not unreasonable to expect the federal government to have a say in how that money is spent. 

Additionally, schools don’t create their curriculum in a vacuum—they often rely on national models or comply with the standards set by their states. To argue that the Trump Administration should stay out of these discussions leaves the field wide open to teachers’ unions, “education experts,” and other reliable leftists to determine what your kid learns. Liberal elites want the “1619 Project” as the standard history of America and, without government resistance, they have the power to impose it on every school in the country.

The government is supposed to protect and to serve the people. A serious country would not give the final word on education to unaccountable elites—it should be in the hands of the people we elected. A government that funds the poisoning of young minds without complaint fails in its basic duties.

Parents do have the power to band together and demand patriotic education from their local schools, but it would help them immensely if they had an alternative curriculum on hand as their preferred choice. Trump offers that with his 1776 Commission. His plan also offers hope to parents who don’t have the power or numbers to keep their kids from learning to hate America and hate themselves for being white. It’s outrageous that any school would teach such pernicious ideas to young Americans, even if the local liberal school board favors it.

School choice is not a real solution to this problem, either. Many parents lack options when it comes to giving their kids an education free of Black Lives Matter propaganda and white privilege training. Private and charter schools often teach the same nonsense as public schools. 

Homeschooling is an option, of course, but a difficult one for working parents and parents of limited means. It also makes little sense to tell millions of Americans to homeschool their kids when their tax dollars are going to public schools. What’s the point of paying taxes if one doesn’t get the benefits of public services or a say over how those tax dollars are spent? School choice may work in individual situations, but it doesn’t solve the larger problem at all. It leaves it there to fester and as it continues to infect even more generations of kids with less proactive parents.

The 1776 Commission is exactly what our country needs. Leftists want to wipe away our heritage and declare the founders evil white supremacists. The Left says our defining feature is slavery, not the character of the people who settled here or the principles of our founding documents, without which we might never have ended slavery. The Left’s narrative sees white people as the great villains of history and demands they atone for their ancestors’ alleged sins. America’s history, as they see it, is something to be ashamed of.

This is what will be taught in American schools if we do nothing. The 1776 Commission aims to do something about that and promises to restore education to its proper purpose. We want our children to love our country, not hate it. We can only accomplish this through a new education that ditches the Left’s poison and honors our cherished inheritance.

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About Paul Bradford

Paul Bradford is a Capitol Hill refugee now earning an honest living.

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