Patriotism or Nationalism? Trump’s 1776 Commission

Carmella Neal, Editor

America’s story has been painted dominantly in it’s glory rather than its flawed entirety. Could Trump’s 1776 Commission further eradicate the full truth of US history in the name of ‘patriotism’?  

 Earlier this September, President Donald Trump made a speech at the National Archives Museum addressing his 1776 Commission.  

 The President made remarks on the harmful shifts in our educational system that have endorsed a curriculum of “indoctrination.” He credited this proposed issue to, “a radical movement,” that aims to, “demolish this treasured and precious inheritance.”  

 He is referring to the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in June, being largely associated with the organization, Black Lives Matter. After his generalization of peaceful protesters and their adversaries as “mobs,” the President claimed the end goal of the movement was to erase American values, lifestyles, and history.  

 Trump proposes to change school curriculums to promote a pro-American basis in class. He believes that the current ideology given in classrooms across America is divisive and further divides citizens even as youth.  

 Currently, there is not much specific action given from the White House on how they wish to proceed in nationally implementing a “patriotic education,” but here are some key takeaways:  

  • Ban on “Critical Race Theory” in schools, work forces, and federal agencies 
  • Empowerment of minorities in schools through work against insinuating the ‘oppressor vs oppressed’ outlook on American history  
  • Patriotism at core curriculum  

 So how will these proposals fundamentally change our schools? Right now we are not certain. As the debuted White House Conference on American History gathered scholars to address ‘indoctrination’ in the school system, the signed order may or may not go into effect. Regardless of legislative action following his demands, this call to action in schools could do more harm than good.  

 Firstly, it is important that American schooling does not erase it’s founding history along with it’s values. However, the nation’s values have not indefinitely reflected it’s history. There is validity to the President’s statements on preserving the prosperity of our country’s legacy, but we should be slow in misconstruing the two-sidedness in matters regarding freedom while teaching and discussing it.   

 The likelihood of activists and local policy makers “demolishing” a positive approach to American history is less than what Trump claims. In fact, the complete and unbiased source to our history is a necessity, contrary to the President’s politicized statements laying blame on the ‘Left’. An education based in condemning our flaws, embracing our progress and revisiting values is an infinitely more feasible way of teaching youth.  

 Outside influences Trump condemns, such as the A People’s History of The United States, by Howard Zinn and 1619 by the New York Times, have been written off as “propaganda tracts,” designed to establish a distrust in the youth of their country, but that simply is not true. Like so many other testimonies providing other sides to the American narrative, they look to elevate unheard voices and introduce a different perspective. If schools are doing their job and teaching students how to critically think, then their pupils will learn to understand the validity to multiple different sources of information.  

 Countless times throughout his address, Trump related his commission to restoring the bonds of American pride. He even went as far to state, “Our youth will be taught to love America with all of their heart and all of their soul.” This statement is borderline nationalist and rooted in a disdain for holding the US accountable for the despair and atrocities inherited by minorities of race, gender, and sexuality. A dialogue that serves to dismiss questioning our nation’s actions is unsettling.  

 We have a duty to observe with transparency, the contradiction we live in.  

 If the Executive branch perpetuates the idea that, “children of minority backgrounds (who) should be uplifted, not disparaged,” then cutting ties with the pain endured by them, their parents, and everyone else before them for the sake of painting America in solely it’s accomplishments would do just that.