Home > Uncategorized > The POTUS’ Executive Order on “Patriotic Education” a Transparent Distraction from our Country’s Real Problem… and Real History

The POTUS’ Executive Order on “Patriotic Education” a Transparent Distraction from our Country’s Real Problem… and Real History

September 19, 2020

Time magazine’s Olivia Waxman followed up on her earlier article about the President’s insistence that teachers adopt a “patriotic education” approach to history with a report on a speech he gave at the Library of Congress after issuing an Executive Order establishing the “1776 Commission,” a group that would “promote patriotic education.” Why is this necessary, you ask?

In the course of his announcement, Trump claimed that people on the left want to “bully Americans into abandoning their values, their heritage and their very way of life,” and denounced the forces that he blamed for propagating that view in history classes. He called the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which reframes the story of nation’s founding around the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia, “toxic propaganda,” and he also singled out the late Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States. Zinn’s book, widely used in schools since it was published in 1980, is credited for helping popularize a bottom-up approach to history, as an alternative to telling the story of the U.S. via the top-down achievements of elite white men.

Such approaches to history, which encourage students to challenge long-standing narratives about national heroes, are “ideological poison, that if not removed will dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together,” Trump said. Under his plan, he said, “Our youth will be taught to love America with all of their heart and all of their soul.”

Without pointing out that Donald Trump’s love of America did not include a desire to serve his country when called to do so, there are countless other examples of the President’s ignorance of the Federal laws, particularly those dealing with schools. As education historian Diane Ravitch who served in GOP administrations noted in her post on this topic:

Do you think he knows that federal law prohibits any federal official from interfering with curriculum or instruction in the schools? Obviously not, but if he knew, he wouldn’t care since he is convinced that he is above the law.

Federal law 20 USC 1232a prohibits “any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system…”

And contrary to Mr. Trump’s assertion that Howard Zinn’s text is widely used, a check by Politifact found no evidence to support a on a similar claim by Rick Santorum:

In an interview, (education and history professor Sam) Wineburg of Stanford added that “not a single state in the union” has put Zinn’s books on an “approved adoption list for middle or high school. Three big companies, including the biggest, Holt-McDougal, control about 90 percent of the market. They issue conventional, 1,000-page behemoths. … Find me one instance in which Zinn appears on any one of 50 state adoption lists, and I’ll find you a unicorn.

In a Common Dreams article by Brett Wilkins Kevin Kumashiro synthesized the real impetus behind this move by the Trump administration:

Kevin Kumashiro, former dean of the University of San Francisco School of Education, told Common Dreams in an email that Trump’s remarks were but the latest attempt by conservatives to paint critical learning as “divisive, un-American, biased, and inflammatory.”

“Not surprisingly, it is this whitewashed curriculum that often gets framed as objective and neutral, whereas efforts to raise awareness about the discomforting realities of race and racism get framed as, in Trump’s words, ‘toxic propaganda,'” he said, also noting the administration’s recent directive banning federal funding of diversity and anti-discrimination training.

At a rally in Nevada in 2016, President Trump famously stated that “I love the uneducated”. With his party’s short-changing of public education, his education secretary’s desire to put an end to “government schools”, and his desire to interfere with the objective findings of scientists and epidemiologists, the President has done everything within his power to make certain that our nation remains uneducated. Four more years of his leadership will ensure that public schools and with it, critical learning, will come to an end.

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