1776 Commission

The 1776 Commission was an advisory committee established in September 2020 by then–U.S. President Donald Trump to support what he called "patriotic education".[1] The commission, which included no historians specializing in United States history,[1] released The 1776 Report on January 18, 2021, two days before the end of Trump's term.[2] Historians condemned the report, saying it was "filled with errors and partisan politics".[1][3] The commission was terminated by President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.[4][5][6]

PDF of the 1776 Commission Report

History

Trump first spoke of giving students a "patriotic education" on September 2, 2020.[7][8] He reiterated his intention to establish the commission in a proclamation on October 6, 2020.[9] The commission was conceived partly as a response to The New York Times' 1619 Project,[10] which explores American history through an African-American framing.[11][12] Various federal laws prohibit the federal government from directly regulating school curricula, which are determined by school districts under rules established by state governments. However, the federal government influences state and local decisions through funding.[13]

Establishment

Trump's speech on September 17, 2020
'White House Conference on American History' – video from September 17, 2020

Trump announced the new commission in a speech on September 17, 2020, in which he contended that a "twisted web of lies" regarding systemic racism was currently being taught in U.S. schools, calling it "a form of child abuse."[11] On November 2, the day before the 2020 elections, Trump officially established the commission by executive order.[14][15] Trump appointed the commission's members on December 18, 2020.[16][17][18][19] The commission held its first meeting on January 5, 2021.[20]

Under the executive order, Trump established an 18-member group[1] serving a two-year term appointed by the president, which is to write a report on “core principles of the American founding and how these principles may be understood to further enjoyment of ‘the blessings of liberty’".[21]

Goals

According to the executive order establishing the commission, the commission's goal was to end what it calls the "radicalized view of American history" which has "vilified [the United States'] Founders and [its] founding".[15] In response to the work of figures like Howard Zinn and groups like the 1619 Project, the 1776 Commission seeks to increase "patriotic education" via a centralized approach to nationalist curriculum.[22] This effort is linked to Trump's wider attacks on critical race theory.[23]

The commission was also intended to promote these concepts at national parks, landmarks, and monuments among other federal properties; federal agencies were instructed to provide grants and initiatives in a way that prioritized those supporting "the American Founding".[21]

Members

The 18-member commission was composed of conservative activists, politicians and intellectuals; it included no professional historians of the United States.[1] Trump appointed the Commission's members on December 18, 2020.[16] The chair was Larry Arnn, the president of the conservative Hillsdale College and the co-chair was Carol Swain, a conservative former professor at Vanderbilt Law School.[1] Others appointed by Trump include his ex-domestic policy advisor Brooke Rollins; Charles R. Kesler, who edits the conservative Claremont Review of Books; conservative activists Ned Ryun and Charlie Kirk; Phil Bryant, the Republican former governor of Mississippi;[1][24] classicist Victor Davis Hanson, as well as John Gibbs, Scott McNealy, Peter Kirsanow, Thomas Lindsay, Michael Farris, and Bob McEwen.[16]

The 1776 Report

Contents

The commission released the 41-page "The 1776 Report" on January 18, 2021, two days before the end of Trump's term and the inauguration of Joe Biden.[24] The report does not include citations or footnotes, and does not identify its main authors.[1]

Among other things, the document identifies "progressivism" and "racism and identity politics" as "challenges to America's principles" and likens them to "communism," "slavery," and "fascism." It refers to John C. Calhoun as "the leading forerunner of identity politics" and criticizes some aspects of the civil rights movement.[3][25][26] The document also describes American universities as "hotbeds of anti-Americanism, libel, and censorship" and criticizes feminist movements.[26] It concludes with recommendations to promote positive stories and images of the country's founders at home, in schools, and in the arts, among other things.[25][27]

Reception

Historians condemned the report, saying it was "filled with errors and partisan politics"[1][3] and identified factual inaccuracies and a lack of scholarship.[28] The American Historical Association (AHA), in a statement cosigned by 33 other historical societies, stated that the report was completed "without any consultation with professional historians of the United States."[29] On 19 January 2021, the Association of University Presses released a statement: "While we leave it to historians to offer a detailed rebuttal of the document’s inaccuracies – if any should choose to do so – we note that it is plagued by procedural deficiencies that would render it unpublishable as a serious work of scholarship."[30]

James Grossman, the executive director of the AHA, criticized Trump's push for so-called "patriotic education," writing that genuinely patriotic history is a rigorous effort to study the past honestly and acknowledge complexity, rather than "cheerleading"; "nationalist propaganda"; or "simplistic and inaccurate narrative of unique virtue and perpetual progress."[31] Grossman described the 1776 Commission's report as "a hack job" that was "not a work of history," but of "cynical politics."[3] Grossman said, "This report skillfully weaves together myths, distortions, deliberate silences, and both blatant and subtle misreading of evidence to create a narrative and an argument that few respectable professional historians, even across a wide interpretive spectrum, would consider plausible, never mind convincing."[1]

Historian Timothy Messer-Kruse likened the content of the report to "every moldy trope of 1950s fifth-grade civics books" and wrote that it misrepresented the beliefs of founding father John Jay as expressed in Federalist No. 2.[32] Historian Eric Rauchway criticized the report for misreading John Winthrop's "City upon a Hill" speech and for the report's claims regarding the civil rights movement. Historian Alexis Coe, a biographer of George Washington, said the report was riddled with "errors, distortions, and outright lies" and mischaracterized Washington's involvement with slavery. Kevin M. Kruse and other historians criticized the report for suggesting that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have opposed affirmative action, noting that King in fact endorsed affirmative action during his life.[3][33] Even historians who were critical of the 1619 Project, such as Sean Wilentz of Princeton University, criticized the report of the 1776 Commission. Wilentz described the report as "the flip side of those polemics" and "basically a political document" that "reduces history to hero worship."[3]

Historians also noted that portions of the report had been copied without attribution from earlier writings by its authors (including a 2008 op-ed by Thomas Lindsay published in Inside Higher Ed and a 2002 Heritage Foundation essay and Intercollegiate Studies Institute essay written by Matthew Spalding, the commission's executive director).[28]

Commentator Eugene Scott criticized the commission's report for suggesting "that identity politics is something unique to those outside of the Trump administration"; Scott writes that Trump's rhetoric and Trumpism "has been rooted in identity politics": specifically, a prioritization of demographic groups that are "largely White, Christian and appealing to traditional gender norms."[34] Writing for Slate, Rebecca Onion described the report as "a screed forwarded by a Fox-poisoned aunt, one that might best be politely ignored" and noted historian Diana Butler Bass's fear that the report was "'a huge gift' to white evangelical Trump supporters, who have long taught this vision of history to children who are enrolled in Christian schools or home-schooled."[35]

Commission members Victor Davis Hanson and Mike Gonzalez defended the report. Hanson asserted that the report did not "whitewash the continuance of many injustices" in U.S. history and defended the report's claim that "progressivism" was at odds with American values,[36] while Gonzalez, a senior fellow of the Heritage Foundation, criticized media coverage of the report and argued that Biden's disbanding of the commission was an outcome of "the woke left" waging a "war on U.S. history."[37]

Termination

On January 20, 2021, hours after he was inaugurated as Trump's successor, President Joe Biden issued an executive order dissolving the 1776 Commission.[38] The report was removed from the White House website,[39] although the National Archives and Records Administration archived the report, along with the entire Trump White House website.[40]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Crowley, Michael; Schuessler, Jennifer (January 19, 2021). "Trump's 1776 Commission Critiques Liberalism in Report Derided by Historians". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  2. ^ "1776 Commission Takes Historic and Scholarly Step to Restore Understanding of the Greatness of the American Founding". whitehouse.gov. Archived from the original on January 20, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2021 – via National Archives.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Brockell, Gillian (January 19, 2021). "'A hack job,' 'outright lies': Trump commission's '1776 Report' outrages historians". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 21, 2021.
  4. ^ Shear, Michael D. (January 20, 2021). "On Day 1, Biden Moves to Undo Trump's Legacy". New York Times. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  5. ^ Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government
  6. ^ "Biden revokes Trump report promoting 'patriotic education'". AP NEWS. January 21, 2021. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  7. ^ "Trump pushes for 'patriotic education' in schools". WCMH-TV. Nexstar Media Group. September 2, 2020. Archived from the original on November 1, 2020.
  8. ^ Krietz, Andrew (September 1, 2020). "President Trump calls for 'patriotic education' in US schools". KFMB-TV. Archived from the original on September 3, 2020.
  9. ^ Trump, Donald J. (October 6, 2020). "Proclamation on the Birthday of Founding Father Caesar Rodney". whitehouse.gov. Archived from the original on January 20, 2021. Retrieved October 7, 2020 – via National Archives.
  10. ^ "Remarks by President Trump at the White House Conference on American History". The American Mind. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Wise, Alana (September 17, 2020). "Trump Announces 'Patriotic Education' Commission, A Largely Political Move". NPR. Archived from the original on November 17, 2020. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  12. ^ "Trump announces 1776 Commission to honor America's founding". The Washington Post (video). September 17, 2020.
  13. ^ "Is the US Department of Education Violating Federal Law by Directing Standards, Tests, and Curricula?". Pioneer Institute. February 9, 2012. Archived from the original on October 2, 2020.
  14. ^ Kurtz, Stanley (November 2, 2020). "Trump Establishes 1776 Commission". National Review. Archived from the original on November 27, 2020.
  15. ^ a b Trump, Donald J. (November 2, 2020). "Executive Order on Establishing the President's Advisory 1776 Commission". whitehouse.gov. Archived from the original on January 20, 2021 – via National Archives.
  16. ^ a b c "President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Appoint Individuals to Key Administration Posts". whitehouse.gov. December 18, 2020. Archived from the original on January 20, 2021. Retrieved December 20, 2020 – via National Archives.
  17. ^ Brokaw, Sommer (December 19, 2020). "Trump appoints members to 'patriotic education' group". United Press International. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  18. ^ Axelrod, Tal (December 19, 2020). "Trump appoints new members to 'patriotic education' commission". The Hill. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  19. ^ Gaudiano, Nicole (December 18, 2020). "Trump appoints 1776 Commission members in last-minute bid to advance 'patriotic education'". Politico. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  20. ^ Crilly, Rob (January 5, 2021). "Trump's 1776 Commission hears plea to make Judeo-Christian principles central to American story". Washington Examiner. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  21. ^ a b Gaudiano, Nicole (November 11, 2020). "Trump creates 1776 Commission to promote 'patriotic education'". Politico. Archived from the original on November 24, 2020. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  22. ^ Howell, Tom Jr. (November 2, 2020). "Trump pushes 'patriotic education' with 1776 Commission". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on November 20, 2020.
  23. ^ Van Dyke, Tyler (November 2, 2020). "Trump signs executive order establishing 1776 Commission". Washington Examiner. Archived from the original on November 16, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Crowley, Michael (January 18, 2021). "Trump's '1776 report' defends America's founding on the basis of slavery and blasts progressivism". The New York Times. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  25. ^ a b Brewster, Jack. "Trump's 1776 Commission—Created To Challenge Controversial 1619 Project— Releases Report On MLK Day". Forbes. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  26. ^ a b Vazquez, Maegan (January 18, 2021). "Trump administration issues racist school curriculum report on MLK day". CNN. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  27. ^ "The 1776 Report" (PDF). whitehouse.gov. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 20, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2021 – via National Archives.
  28. ^ a b Nguyen, Tina (January 19, 2021). "A big chunk of Trump's 1776 report appears lifted from an author's prior work". Politico. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  29. ^ "AHA Condemns Report of Advisory 1776 Commission". American Historical Association. January 20, 2021. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  30. ^ "AUPresses Responds to the 1776 Report". Association of University Presses. January 19, 2021. Retrieved January 31, 2021.
  31. ^ Grossman, James (October 1, 2020). "Trump is afraid of honest history". NY Daily News. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  32. ^ Messer-Kruse, Timothy (January 19, 2021). "The Sheer Absurdity of Trump's "1776 Commission" Report Is Hard to Overstate". Jacobin. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  33. ^ Kruse, Kevin M. (January 20, 2021). "Trump's response to reframing Black Americans' place in history is a racist mess". MSNBC. Retrieved March 21, 2021. Despite King's vocal advocacy for affirmative action, the 1776 report bizarrely holds him up as the antithesis of those programs and "identity politics" writ large.
  34. ^ Scott, Eugene (January 19, 2021). "The 1776 Project report attacks a concept at the foundation of the Trump presidency: 'Identity politics'". The Washington Post.
  35. ^ Onion, Rebecca (January 19, 2021). "Trump's "1776 Report" Would Be Funny If It Weren't So Dangerous". Slate.
  36. ^ Victor Davis Hanson (January 20, 2021). "Thoughts on the 1776 Commission and its report". Tribune Content Agency.
  37. ^ Gonzalez, Mike (January 20, 2021). "Biden's Disbanding of 1776 Commission Shows Left's War on U.S. History". The Heritage Foundation.
  38. ^ Kelly, Caroline (January 20, 2021). "Biden rescinds 1776 commission via executive order". CNN. Archived from the original on January 20, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  39. ^ Binkley, Collin (January 21, 2021). "Biden revokes Trump report promoting 'patriotic education'". Associated Press. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  40. ^ "1776 Commission Takes Historic and Scholarly Step to Restore Understanding of the Greatness of the American Founding". whitehouse.gov. January 18, 2021. Retrieved January 23, 2021 – via National Archives.

Further reading

External links