by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The order marks an important step in Trump’s efforts to foster patriotic education.
The text is longer and more substantive than typical presidential EOs. It offers sharp criticisms of current educational trends, a definition and explanation of patriotic education, as well as a vision for how to realize it. Following Trump’s remarks at the White House Conference on American History, the president was criticized by some on the left both for favoring a simplistic view of patriotism and for trying to force a curriculum on schools in violation of local control. This EO refutes both criticisms.
Trump’s EO does offer strong criticisms of “polemics grounded in poor scholarship” that vilify “our Founders and our founding.” The president evidently has Howard Zinn and the 1619 Project in mind. “Despite the virtues and accomplishments of this Nation, many students are now taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but rather villains,” the EO continues. The order rakes this approach over the coals for a time, then says, “Failing to identify, challenge, and correct this distorted perspective could fray and ultimately erase the bonds that knit our country and culture together.”
The critical tone then shifts as the order goes on to make a number of positive points. Grappling directly with the issue of race, the EO highlights a legacy too often ignored: “our country’s valiant and successful effort to shake off the curse of slavery and to use the lessons of that struggle to guide our work toward equal rights for all citizens in the present.” The 1619 Project falsely excludes Americans of all races from the struggle for liberty. Trump’s EO, in contrast, emphasizes our shared striving. …