Biden dissolves 1776 Commission
Education | Members say their work will continue elsewhere
by Esther Eaton
Posted 1/27/21, 03:53 pm
Amid a flurry of executive orders on his first day in office, President Joe Biden nixed a controversial education initiative that took aim at revisionist histories of the United States.
President Donald Trump founded the 1776 Commission by executive order in November to promote patriotic instruction of U.S. history. He said the commission would provide a positive counterpoint to curriculums like The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which claims the United States is inherently racist and has drawn criticism for questionable research and claiming the American Revolution began to protect slavery. The 18-member commission included Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, conservative Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk, and College of the Ozarks head Jerry Davis, as well as lawyers and government professors. The group released its first report Jan. 18. It had no authority over schools’ curriculum and quickly sparked criticism. But members have indicated they plan to carry on their work at the Heritage Foundation.
The report combined an overview of U.S. history with a rebuke of identity politics and suggestions for civics education. While acknowledging injustices in U.S. history, it criticized civics teachers for focusing only on the country’s flaws. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution “show how the American people have ever pursued freedom and justice,” it said, listing racism, fascism, communism, and identity politics as threats to the country.
The commission suggested civics and government classes rely on primary sources including the Federalist Papers and provided discussion questions including “What economic conditions make American democracy possible?”
Critics blasted the report as slanted and sloppy. The commission drew fire for ignoring Native Americans and comparing progressives to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The American Historical Association said the document “relies on falsehoods, inaccuracies, omissions, and misleading statements.” Others have criticized the initial report for including no scholarly references, though it does extensively quote original sources and commission member and Hillsdale government professor Matthew Spalding noted it “wasn’t written for academic historians.”
Commission member Carol Swain said the panel would have added members and written more thorough reports if it had not been disbanded. Another member, Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, defended the report’s importance and said the commission would “continue meeting and fulfilling the charges of our two-year remit.”
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