Tue | Apr 20, 2021

Biden revokes Trump report promoting ‘patriotic education’

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2021 | 12:10 PM
President Joe Biden addresses the nation at the Celebrating America concert at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, after his inauguration.. (Joshua Roberts/Pool photo via AP)

President Joe Biden revoked a recent Trump administration report that aimed to promote “patriotic education” in schools but that historians mocked and rejected as political propaganda.

In an executive order signed on Wednesday in his first day in office, Biden disbanded Donald Trump’s presidential 1776 Commission and withdrew a report it released Monday. Trump established the group in September to rally support from white voters and as a response to The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which highlights the lasting consequences of slavery in America.

In its report, which Trump hoped would be used in classrooms across the nation, the commission glorifies the country’s founders, plays down America’s role in slavery, condemns the rise of progressive politics and argues that the civil rights movement ran afoul of the “lofty ideals” espoused by the Founding Fathers.

The panel, which included no professional historians of the United States, complained of “false and fashionable ideologies” that depict the country’s story as one of “oppression and victimhood.” Instead, it called for renewed efforts to foster “a brave and honest love for our country.”

Historians widely panned the report, saying it offers a false and outdated version of American history that ignores decades of research.

“It’s an insult to the whole enterprise of education. Education is supposed to help young people learn to think critically,” said David Blight, a Civil War historian at Yale University. “That report is a piece of right-wing propaganda.”

Trump officials heralded the report as “a definitive chronicle of the American founding,” but scholars say it disregards the most basic rules of scholarship. It offers no citations, for example, or a list of its source materials.

It also includes several passages copied directly from other writings by members of the panel, as one professor found after running the report through software that’s used to detect plagiarism.

In documents announcing Biden’s executive order, administration officials said the panel “sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice.”

The American Historical Association condemned the report, saying it glorifies the founders while ignoring the histories and contributions of enslaved people, Indigenous communities and women. In a statement also signed by 13 other academic groups, the organisation said the report seeks “government indoctrination of American students.”

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