The 1776 Commission is desperately needed
In the summer of 1787, 55 delegates from throughout the United States gathered in Philadelphia to sign the greatest document in American history, the U.S. Constitution. Now, 233 years later, the Constitution remains the bedrock of our system of government, protecting the people from tyranny and entrenching America as the freest society in the world.
The unique division of political power among three separate and coequal branches of government, and an explicit dedication of unspecified powers to the state, rather than the federal government, ensure that we the people of the United States are umbrellaed under the founding documents’ enduring principles of truth. What these men accomplished many centuries ago not only liberated Americans, but it serves as the foundation to liberate millions of people around the world.
Yet, our corporate understanding and knowledge of this document, or government, and our freedoms appear to be at an all-time low. Shockingly, another poll found that only 57 percent of millennials believe the Declaration of Independence is preferable to the Communist Manifesto.
Seeking to restore America’s knowledge of its unique founding, this week President Trump signed an executive order, “Establishing the National Commission to Promote Patriotic Education, the 1776 Commission.” The 1776 Commission will promote patriotic education for our students and will encourage educators to celebrate the 250th birthday of America’s founding.
The 1776 Commission is no doubt at least in part a 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 the national narrative. The project suggests that 1619 represents the “nation’s birth year” because it marks the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the Virginia colony. While it can only help to highlight the role black Americans have played in the history of our country, it does not help to make slavery the focus of the national narrative, and it is certainly not the birth year of America. Such a skewed view of history forces students to see America’s history through the lens of its greatest sins and resists the truth that such sins were corrected because of the powerful, inescapable principles in our founding documents.
As the president’s order suggests, viewing our nation through the lens of racism alone diminishes the role of many of America’s great heroes and civil right icons, from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thus, our founding documents are not what’s wrong with the world, but instead they are the best hope we have for the world. We want our future leaders to learn from our history — all of it — not work to erase it. Using education to control the next generation’s opinions is the pinnacle of a dystopian 1984. It is no wonder that those who seek to rewrite or distort history are often the same ones who often seek to cancel anyone who won’t bow to popular ideology. The Constitution is the biggest barrier to forced ideological indoctrination, thus the Constitution is what keeps us free and is the biggest threat to those who want to use government force to control the minds of the American people.
One can only hope that a national refresher in our founding will help to restore both civility among our citizens and respect for our country.
Although the federal government has little to no control over a local school district’s curriculum, it is no doubt influential for the president to publicly declare that school districts should teach a more accurately patriotic education. If nothing else, hopefully, the 1776 Commission will bring awareness of our founding to those who have ignored it for so long, and perhaps it will convince everyone to start paying attention to what is being taught in their local public school districts, no matter where their own children attend school.
While we must continue to promote school choice, government indoctrination of our kids in government-controlled schools is everyone’s problem. It is up to all of us to stand up for local public education to ensure that America has a well-informed citizenry. Implementing Trump’s 1776 Commission is one step toward rebuilding a shared cultural experience that can only enhance our freedoms.
Keisha Russell is counsel to First Liberty Institute, a non-profit law firm dedicated to defending religious freedom for all. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org.