US President Joe Biden withdrew a recent report from the Donald Trump administration that sought to promote “patriotic education” in schools, but which sparked ridicule and accusations of political propaganda among historians.
In a decree signed Wednesday on his first day in office, Biden dissolved the 1776 Commission formed by the previous government and withdrew a report that he had published on Monday. Trump formed the group in September to win support among white voters and in response to the New York Times’ “Project 1619,” which points to the lasting consequences of slavery in America.
In its report, which Trump hoped would be used in classes across the country, the commission glorifies the country’s founders, downplays America’s role in slavery, condemns the rise of progressive politics and alleges that the civil rights moved away from the “lofty ideals” that the Founding Fathers espoused.RELATED
The committee, which did not include any professional US historian, complained about “fashionable and false ideologies” that portray the country’s history as one of “oppression and victimhood.” Instead, he called for renewed efforts to foster “a courageous and sincere love for our country.”
The text was widely rejected by historians, who said it painted a false and outdated picture of American history, ignoring decades of research.
Members of the Trump administration presented the document as a “definitive chronicle of the founding of the United States,” but academics pointed out that it ignored the most basic norms of academic texts. For example, it did not include citations or a bibliography list.
In his decree to dissolve the commission, Biden said that he “intended to erase the history of racial injustice in America.”
The authors of the document also alleged that the civil rights movement had been distorted to promote programs that promoted inequality and “group privilege”, complaining, for example, of positive discrimination and other forms of “preferential treatment”.
Ibram X. Kendi, an academic and historian of racism at Boston University, described the report as “the latest big lie from a Trump administration of big lies.”
Other scholars pointed to the omissions in the text. The report did not include anything about American Indian history, and its only reference to Native Americans was a pejorative term quoted from the Declaration of Independence.
James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, said the report was intended to discredit public policies stemming from progressive reforms. He expressed concern that even though the commission had been dissolved, his report could end up in some classrooms.
“Historians need to be on the lookout for conversations about curriculum at the state and local levels,” Grossman said. “The nonsense in that report will be used to legitimize similar nonsense.”