Is Biden right to rescind Trump 1776 commission?
- Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president on Wednesday, January 20 along with Vice President Kamala Harris.
- On Monday, then President Trump released the 1776 commission to “promote patriotic education” to combat the 1619 Project. The document denies systemic racism and critical race theory, and encourages the idea that “identity politics” are the problem of race.
- On Biden’s first day as president, he is expected to rescind the project as a way to “advance racial equity.”
- The New York Times published the 1619 Project in August 2019 stating that the founding of America started with the introduction of slaves in Virginia. It is an analysis of the struggles and contributions of Black Americans to the foundation of the states.
- Both the 1619 Project and the 1776 commission have been criticized. On one hand, the 1619 Project has been critiqued by scholars as a “one-sided account” with missing historical facts, while the 1776 commission has been blamed for “slanderous rendering” of American history and lifting prior text.
Following former President Trump's establishment of the 1776 Commission, which had the goal of 'teach[ing] US history from a patriotic perspective,' there was unsurprising pushback from his critics regarding many of America's founders who were slaveholders.
While racial issues have been a major media issue in recent times, now-President Biden is preemptively rescinding the 1776 Commission on his very first day of office. This is problematic considering that it is based on disagreements over the correct education methodology, pitting it against the 1619 Project. While the Biden-Harris administration claimed that the 1776 Commission 'has sought to erase America's history of racial injustice,' this is a dangerous philosophy, as history cannot simply be 'erased,' nor should it.
It cannot be overstated enough the importance of learning the country's real history despite certain topics being uncomfortable for some. Similarly, teaching important history lessons based on the culture of the time denies our youth the opportunity to benefit from an unbiased approach: the facts of what actually occurred instead of what perhaps should have.
In defending the 1776 Commission, Trump rightfully condemned the 1619 Project, saying that it 'rewrites American history to teach our children that we were founded on the principle of oppression, not freedom.' While there were countless throughout early America who were undeniably oppressed, it is nonetheless disturbing that there is a discreditation of freedom, something that so many value most about the United States. Despite the overly divisive nature of the nation, there is perhaps something to gain from both forms of curricula. However, Biden's immediate rescindment is unlikely to help in re-unifying the country.
Trump's 1776 Commission seeks to promote 'patriotic education,' which sounds exactly like the kind of nationalist propaganda that it is. Attempting to speak in support of the commission, Mike Pompeo said that multiculturalism is 'not who America is' and that it 'distort[s] our glorious founding.' Statements such as this show the project to be nothing short of a direct attempt to whitewash history. The creator of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, spoke against the panel, pointing out that it 'unwittingly confirm[s] the argument' made by the 1619 Project, that even though the US has been 'a multiracial nation' from the beginning, 'our founders set forth a government of white rule.' As history teacher Bruce Janu points out in an article on Medium, we can learn from the past 'only if that history is complete with all of its blemishes and controversies.' Leaving negative aspects about our past out of history education to instill a false sense of pride in American youth will only serve to exacerbate the issues we face.
The 1776 Commission doesn't only leave out important elements of our history, though; there is also little care given to the accuracy of what is included. Writer Timothy Messer-Kruse notes in Jacobin that 'only three provisions of the Bill of Rights are mentioned' in the report, those being freedom of religion, the right to free speech, and the right to bear arms, all of which 'are questionably described.' Our education system has many problems, but Biden's rescinding of this commission is definitely a step in the right direction.