by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Sumantra Maitra writes for the Martin Center about a Trump administration history program cut short by the incoming president.
A short-lived report quickly torched by the new Biden administration provides a pathway for those who seek to return to a classical structure of higher education.
The report, titled the 1776 Report, by President Trump’s appointees in the 1776 commission, called for a “return to the unifying ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence,” according to commission president Larry Arne of Hillsdale College. Arguably true to the foundational principles of the young republic, the report “quotes the greatest Americans, black and white, men and women, in devotion to these ideals.”
The name of the report was of course based on the founding year of the republic and was a deliberate hit at the controversial and much-debated 1619 Project of The New York Times.
The report was duly erased from the US Government website, although a cached version is visible, as is an abridged version and the full version. The now-defunct commission apparently will continue to meet as private individuals to decide on a new course of action, per one of the founding members.
One of the chief aims of the report was to outline the reason why the United States is so divided, as it lacks not just a genuine mass civics education, but also a unifying national story, which has frayed since the late 1960s. …
… Naturally, given that the 1776 report was initiated by the Trump administration, it faced a significant coordinated assault from predominantly left-liberal media. There were academic criticisms, with some historians calling facts in the report out of context and cherry-picked, and others saying it is a puerile reactionary document. Others called for a non-partisan government-led “study” on the founding of the American republic.
Furthermore, a blistering article in New York Times somewhat bafflingly questioned the credentials of the writers behind the report. David Harsanyi pointed out how surprising this appeal to authority, as the 1619 Project was led by “Nikole Hannah-Jones, a polemicist who earned a master’s degree in journalism and has no relevant training as a historian,” whereas the 1776 commission had a mixture of PhD-holders in relevant disciplines such as classics, government, and political science.