When Trump announced the 1776 Commission we all knew it was a campaign stunt. We should thus not be surprised that he issued an executive order today that established the aforesaid commission. Of course if Trump loses tonight, the 1776 Commission will be no more.
Read the executive order here. A few comments:
Trump writes: “The Commission will offer recommendations for the Federal Government to promote patriotic education at Federal sites – including National Parks and Monuments.” The National Park Service already promotes patriotic history. Its sites cover American history as it happened–warts and all. This is patriotic history.
Trump writes: “Unfortunately, some versions of American history offer a misconstrued and one-sided account of our founding in an effort to paint America as a systemically racist country.” Anyone who studies American history cannot ignore the fact that racism has permeated many, if not most, of our institutions.
Trump writes: “In fact, fewer than one in six eighth graders have proficient knowledge of United States history according to the Nation’s Report Card.” I have no problem with students learning American history, but the study of history is not primarily about civics. It is about developing historical thinking skills that will enable students to be more thoughtful citizens. I made that case in the context of Pennsylvania here.
The executive order announces: “The President has taken action to establish the National Garden of American Heroes, a statuary park that will memorialize our American heroes for generations to come.” Monuments are not history. They tell us more about the people who erect them than they do the figures commemorated.
The executive order announces: The President took executive action to ensure that radicals who seek to destroy America’s heritage by tearing down our monuments are prosecuted to the fullest extent under the law.” Again, this suggests that history is all about monuments. It is not.
Read the entire order here.