Written By: Angelie Roche
Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump delivered a divisive speech in which he announced he would establish a commission to create a “pro-American curriculum” wherein schools would focus more heavily on “patriotic” material that promotes America’s image rather than acknowledge our country’s faults. His speech began with an introduction from Vice President Mike Pence, wherein Pence quoted important figures in American history such as Presidents Adams and Lincoln. Pence said the main reason for our nation’s “unparallelled success” was that these figures knew history, warning that now “we live in a time when some seek to erase our history and deny our nation’s relentless march toward a more perfect union.” He argued that students in American schools are currently taught by people who wish to erase this history and “defame” heroes in order to indoctrinate children with a more anti-American, leftist viewpoint.
Trump built upon Pence’s remarks by announcing that, in order to let students know they were citizens of “the most exceptional nation in the history of the world,” teachers ought to incorporate more positive reflections of American history into curriculums. This remark comes after a push from organizations such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) to remove statues of figures whose legacies were fraught with slave ownership. Additionally, similar leftist movements have urged public schools to incorporate lessons about systematic racism and more accurate portrayals of slavery into history programs.
More specifically, Trump’s speech appears to be a direct response to “The New York Times’” “1619 Project,” which “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” The creators of the project argue the exact opposite of Trump’s point: according to them, American history has been white-washed, with severely inadequate focus on discussions of slavery, racism and the contributions of Black people to our nation’s founding. Trump, on the other hand, views this as a negative attack on the idealistic “American Dream.” Rather than focus on the negative aspects of history, Trump says, we ought to teach “the legacy of 1776” — that is, the year the colonies declared independence from Great Britain.
Trump’s response to the 1619 Project follows and builds upon his history of “America-first”, borderline nationalistic rhetoric. He repeatedly referenced the BLM protests that have been occurring since May of this year, calling them “riots” and its founders “radicals,” further fostering the divide between liberals and conservatives, which has been widening ever since the 2016 election. This new policy — whether or not it goes into effect — is just another example of Trump’s reactionist-style rhetoric aimed at leftist movements which he believes “attack” American values. In his words, the policy is designed to “clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country.”