The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that rising generations must be taught the history of their nation to know their true identity. By studying history, they can learn the good and bad about their nation, learn from the mistakes of previous generations, improve their decision-making skills and judgment, and teach how to be responsible citizens.
In September 2020, President Donald Trump formed a commission to promote “patriotic education” to counter the false history curriculum being taught to children and youth. The 1776 Commission released its report on Monday, January 18, 2020. In the 45-page report, the Commission offered “a definitive chronicle of the American founding” according to sources at the White House. The report also criticized what students in America are being taught about the formation of the United States, the history of slavery, and racial discrimination.
According to the New York Post, the report said that “States and school districts should reject any curriculum that promotes one-sided partisan opinions, activist propaganda, or factional ideologies that demean America’s heritage, dishonor our heroes, or deny our principles.” According to the New York Post, the document continued:
Deliberately destructive scholarship shatters the civic bonds that unite all Americans. It silences the discourse essential to a free society by breeding division, distrust, and hatred among citizens. And it is the intellectual force behind so much of the violence in our cities, suppression of free speech in our universities, and defamation of our treasured national statues and symbols.
The Biden administration did not appreciate the report. He ordered the report to be taken down and disbanded the commission. The new President’s actions will not stop the commission from acting. According to Mike Gonzalez, a member of the commission, the “commissioners intend to continue meeting and fulfilling the charges of our two-year remit. The Heritage Foundation will also continue to host the report, which you can henceforth find here.” Here are a few paragraphs from the Introduction of the report.
In the course of human events there have always been those who deny or reject human freedom, but Americans will never falter in defending the fundamental truths of human liberty proclaimed on July 4, 1776. We will—we must—always hold these truths.
The declared purpose of the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission is to “enable a rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union.” This requires a restoration of American education, which can only be grounded on a history of those principles that is “accurate, honest, unifying, inspiring, and ennobling.” And a rediscovery of our shared identity rooted in our founding principles is the path to a renewed American unity and a confident American future.
The Commission’s first responsibility is to produce a report summarizing the principles of the American founding and how those principles have shaped our country. That can only be done by truthfully recounting the aspirations and actions of the men and women who sought to build America as a shining “city on a hill”—an exemplary nation, one that protects the safety and promotes the happiness of its people, as an example to be admired and emulated by nations of the world that wish to steer their government toward greater liberty and justice. The record of our founders’ striving and the nation they built is our shared inheritance and remains a beacon, as Abraham Lincoln said, “not for one people or one time, but for all people for all time.”
Today, however, Americans are deeply divided about the meaning of their country, its history, and how it should be governed. This division is severe enough to call to mind the disagreements between the colonists and King George, and those between the Confederate and Union forces in the Civil War. They amount to a dispute over not only the history of our country but also its present purpose and future direction.
The facts of our founding are not partisan. They are a matter of history. Controversies about the meaning of the founding can begin to be resolved by looking at the facts of our nation’s founding. Properly understood, these facts address the concerns and aspirations of Americans of all social classes, income levels, races and religions, regions and walks of life. As well, these facts provide necessary—and wise—cautions against unrealistic hopes and checks against pressing partisan claims or utopian agendas too hard or too far.
One can only wonder why the new President would object to the commission and its work. It appears that he is adamant to erase “everything Trump” from the nation – even those things that are good and good for the nation. President Trump formed the Advisory 1776 Commission with the declared purpose to “enable the rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union.”
Victor David Hansen, another member of the commission, wrote an article titled “It’s Fake News That the 1776 Commission Report Whitewashes America’s Past.” The following paragraphs are from his report.
The commission reminded us that the Founders were equally worried about autocracy and chaos. So they drafted checks and balances to protect citizens from both authoritarianism, known so well from the British Crown, and the frenzy of sometimes wild public excess.
The report repeatedly focuses on both the ideals of the American founding and the centuries-long quest to live up to them. It notes the fragility of such a novel experiment in constitutional republicanism, democratic elections, and self-government—especially during late 18th-century era of war and factionalism.
The report does not whitewash the continuance of many injustices after 1776 and 1787—in particular chattel slavery concentrated in the South, and voting reserved only for free males.
It seems strange that there are people in America who do not want the rising generation to be taught correct history. Yet, many Democrats and other progressives are unwilling to have this commission continue their efforts to make correct history available to be taught. Their unwillingness begs the question, “Why?”