Rejecting what he said is a false, cynical version of American history taught in elementary and secondary schools across the country, President Donald Trump recently unveiled a new nonprofit that’s tasked with designing educational materials aimed at accurately depicting the nation’s history.
There’s no time to waste, Trump said during the White House Conference on American History on Sept. 17 (Constitution Day).
There is a “left-wing cultural revolution” underway that “is designed to overthrow the American Revolution,” said Trump, who also stated that “left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools” that has “gone on far too long.”
“Propaganda tracts, like those of [the late communist professor] Howard Zinn,” are used in schools “to make students ashamed of their own history.”
“The left has warped, distorted, and defiled the American story with deceptions, falsehoods, and lies,” Trump said. “There is no better example than The New York Times’ totally discredited 1619 Project. This project rewrites American history to teach our children that we were founded on the principle of oppression, not freedom.”
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” the president said. “America’s founding set in motion the unstoppable chain of events that abolished slavery, secured civil rights, defeated communism and fascism, and built the most fair, equal, and prosperous nation in human history.”
The address came before the president described critical race theory, which is in vogue in post-secondary educational institutions, as being “like a cancer” in a Sept. 24 speech.
Trump signed Executive Order 13950 on Sept. 22 banning the teaching of critical race theory, a neo-Marxist ideology that makes race the central consideration and justification for what happens in American society, within the government and among government contractors and their employees. Trump called the theory “divisive and harmful.”
Leftists counter that the theory is needed to promote racial equality by highlighting the supposed damage that white people have done to others in society.
The president has also vowed to sign an executive order creating a “1776 Commission,” that would promote patriotic education within the United States.
The new nonprofit organization American Achievement Testing (AAT), in partnership with the National Association of Scholars (NAS), recently took in a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to design instructional materials for kindergarten through 12th-grade U.S. history courses. NAS will be reviewing mainstream history textbooks.
The history textbook “Land of Hope,” by Wilfred McClay, holder of the G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty at the University of Oklahoma, and the director of its Center for the History of Liberty, will be the core text used in the project. The book is already used as a text at Hillsdale College in Michigan.
McClay is a member of AAT’s academic advisory board, alongside notable academics James Ceaser of the University of Virginia, and Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. of Harvard University.
AAT’s approach to rescuing American history education, and later on, other subjects, from the grip of anti-American radicals, “represents a sharp break with the failed approach of the national education reform movement supported for years by the conservative education establishment,” Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes at National Review.
“Instead of attempting to impose a de facto national curriculum (think Common Core, the College Board’s AP U.S. history framework, and plans for new national civics standards), AAT hopes to return our education system to the principles of federalism, competition, and local control.”
AAT Chief Executive Officer Theodor Rebarber explained AAT’s objective in an interview with The Epoch Times.
“It has a social mission to improve education and to serve educators, particularly whether they are teachers in public schools, private schools, charter schools, home schools, would-be parents, whoever. Our mission is to provide them great tools to provide a great education for their students or children.”
With seed funding from the NEH, AAT will move forward with its first project, which focuses on American history, Rebarber said, adding the nonprofit plans to raise additional funds for the project from the citizenry. The organization is developing detailed instructional units, teacher presentation materials, lesson plans, unit tests, and material about writing papers, he said.
It will provide “strong instructional support for teachers,” Rebarber said.
“This effort is designed as a grassroots type of organization that would allow the many parents and other citizens who’ve been concerned about trends in American education, particularly in the public schools, but not only in the public schools to participate in an effort that is designed to address that.”
Even in those school districts that fail to adopt AAT’s curriculum, there may be pressure on educators and publishers to moderate the radicalism of the materials they use, Rebarber said.
Just look at the Advanced Placement (AP) “course framework for American history [and] there is less than half a page on the U.S. Constitution but there are pages and pages on much less important things,” he said.
Then there is “the way property is described in the course, mostly negative, as a tool for historical injustice–which is not to say it was never a tool for historical injustice—but there are no references [in it] to property rights in the U.S. Constitution protecting you from the government taking your property without just compensation, as in the Takings Clause,” he said.
“There is a lack of balance that leads you to a very distorted view of American history.”
Even though AAT will show negative aspects of American history, “warts and all,” students will come out of this course “with an accurate view of American history that makes them understand the many reasons to be proud of American history.
“If most or nearly all of what you’ve learned in school about property is that it’s a tool of historical injustice, not about property rights to protect the weak from those who would by sheer force damage or take that property, then why should you respect the property of others and not burn, damage, loot and destroy, as we’ve seen in a lot of these protests.
“The distorted values that are implicit in a distorted history certainly set the tone for much of what we’ve been seeing.”
Peter Wood, president of NAS, shared his thoughts about the state of the culture in a separate interview with The Epoch Times.
“The radicalization of students that frequently takes place on college campuses and the readiness of the authorities that run our colleges and universities to accommodate and appease the most radical members of their faculty and other administrators has played an outsized role in the riots that have afflicted so many American towns and cities over the last six months or so,” he said.
Many of the rioters are current or recent college students who have “a profound dislike of their country and eagerness to replace it either with anarchism or some version of a socialist paradise,” he added. These people “think that physical destruction and mayhem, and attacks on individuals, is the avenue toward that goal.”