by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
America’s proud history is worth defending, and it is worth defending through government and politics. There are fair arguments about how best to go about that task consistently with a duly conservative skepticism about the proper powers of federal and local government, but conservatives should not shy away from conserving the core of our national history, ideals, and culture — a goal that not so long ago was neither partisan nor ideological.
The current lines of battle are joined around the teaching of the New York Times 1619 Project, Howard Zinn’s 1980 screed A People’s History of the United States, and other fact-challenged efforts to supplant the story of America, its ideals, and its exceptional history with critical-race and gender theory and leftist agitprop. It is wrong to fill the heads of children with falsehoods, or to subject them to outside-the-mainstream theories until they are old enough to learn to evaluate them critically. It is right and important to commemorate what makes this nation great and special.
Control of public-school curricula is properly a local matter, but presidents can provide moral leadership, start national conversations, and raise alarms in this area. So long as there is a federal Department of Education with its hands in school curricula, its actions, too, should aim to be constructive rather than destructive. A proper American history does not mean feeding children Parson Weems’s whitewashed just-so stories. It is, rather, what Ronald Reagan called for in his Farewell Address in 1989, an “informed patriotism.” …
… It is to preserve that history and civic ritual that the Trump administration has announced a “1776 Commission” to promote patriotic education. The commission, at least as presently envisioned, will not dictate anything to anyone.