Just three days after the 1776 Commission released its report on “patriotic education,” President Joe Biden has dissolved the committee, according to the Hill.
Established last year by former President Donald Trump, the panel was chaired by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn. Its executive director was Hillsdale in D.C. Vice President Matthew Spalding.
“The 1776 Report calls for a return to the unifying ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence,” said Arnn and Spalding in a statement on Wednesday, along with Vice Chair Carol Swain. “It quotes the greatest Americans, black and white, men and women, in devotion to these ideals. The Commission may be abolished, but these principles and our history cannot be. We will all continue to work together to teach and to defend them.”
The group was tasked with issuing a report in response to the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which dates America’s founding to the arrival of the first slave ship in North America and argues that America is an irredeemably racist nation. The 45-page report was published Jan.18.
According to Spalding, the 1776 Report aims to describe the decline of American education, argues for authentic education, and describes what a genuine civics course would look like.
“The report makes a powerful argument for America’s founding principles and an honest history of those principles and our country as the path to a renewed American unity,” Spalding told the Collegian in an email. “These principles and this country are our inheritance. If we do not understand our first principles, preserve them, and pass them along, our country as we know it will perish.”
A fact sheet for the 1776 Commission says the report is committed to “cultivating an honest love for our country,” calls for “teaching the truth about America’s founding and history,” and urges Americans to “appeal to our founding principles” rather than abandon its truths.
“It is our mission — all of us — to restore our national unity by rekindling a brave and honest love for our country and by raising new generations of citizens who not only know the self-evident truths of our founding, but act worthy of them,” the report states.
Wilfred McClay, author of the history textbook “Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story” and an incoming history professor at Hillsdale College, described the report as “very well and artfully done.”
“Unlike many government documents and commission reports, it focuses like a laser on the most important aspects of the distinctive American legacy,” McClay said in an email. “It gives attention not only to American principles but also to our American history, and I like that about it very much.”
McClay emphasized that the report is not a propagandistic or jingoistic retelling of history.
“The authors of the report have been frank about the nation’s past failings, and particularly the ways it has failed to live up to its ideals,” he said. “But they also have not hesitated to emphasize the nation’s successes, not the least of which is the establishment of those very ideals, in a nation consciously dedicated to their veneration and realization.”
Nonetheless, the report earned quick condemnations from the mainstream media. In a headline on its website, CNN labeled the report a “racist school curriculum.” The New York Times called it a “sweeping attack on liberal thought and activism.”
“The commission’s report depicts a nation where liberals are seething with hatred for their own country, and whose divisions over its history and meaning recall those leading to the American Revolution and the Civil War,” wrote Times reporters Michael Crowley and Jennifer Schuessler. “It portrays an America whose institutions have been infiltrated by leftist radicals whose views echo those of recent totalitarian movements and argues that progressives have created, in the so-called administrative state, an unchecked ‘fourth branch’ or ‘shadow government.’”
The Times reporters write that the commission includes “no professional historians,” even though Victor Davis Hanson, Wayne and Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History at Hillsdale College and the author of many books on military history, was among its members. Its other academics included Charles Kesler, of Claremont McKenna College, and Thomas Lindsay, former president of Shimer College.
The report has also become a target of the incoming president. According to the Hill, the Biden-Harris transition team issued a statement Wednesday regarding the president’s plans to dissolve the commission and accused it of trying to “erase America’s history of racial injustice.”
While the 1776 Commission may be on its way out, McClay argued that there is plenty of opportunity for Americans to take the reins and continue its mission.
“Presidential commissions can do a lot, but so can local communities, local historical societies, and ordinary citizens,” he said. “This is not ultimately something merely ideological. A more vibrant sense of history and its importance has to do with the way we live. Cultivating it is a job for all of us.”
“The commission and its work will continue, in some form or another,” he said. “It is too important.”