Former pres­ident Donald Trump announced the cre­ation of the 1776 Com­mission during Con­sti­tution Day in 2020. | Col­legian Archives

Matthew Spalding, vice pres­ident of Wash­ington oper­a­tions and dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Gov­ernment, hopes the cur­riculum will present honest history to American stu­dents. The cur­riculum pro­vides lesson guidance on its website for parents and teachers of stu­dents in kinder­garten through the 12th grade.

The cur­riculum differs from New York Times’ 1619 Project, which claims that the insti­tution of slavery has touched all aspects of American life, ren­dering it nec­essary to “reframe the country’s history.” 

However, Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry P. Arnn said that the college began cre­ating the cur­riculum long before The 1619 Project emerged. He said that work on the cur­riculum began at least 40 years ago. 

While former Pres­ident Donald J. Trump’s 1776 Com­mission on Patriotic Edu­cation included Arnn as chair and Spalding as exec­utive director, Spalding said the 1776 Cur­riculum is unrelated. 

The 1776 Cur­riculum offers a dif­ferent per­spective from The 1619 Project, but it also teaches the darker aspects of American history and how the nation has overcome them. As stated on its website, the cur­riculum focuses on “America’s founding prin­ciples, which have out­lasted and extin­guished from law various forms of evil, such as slavery, racism, and other vio­la­tions of the equal pro­tection of natural rights.” 

The creator of The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, argued that “our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written.”

The National Edu­cation Asso­ci­ation, the largest public teachers’ union in America, dis­tributed The 1619 Project to teachers across America. According to The New York Post, the NEA has recently announced that it will be pro­moting critical race theory in 14,000 school dis­tricts across the nation.

Spalding said this debate is not about history, but is the result of a movement to “read history backwards.”

“Their approach is ille­git­imate, and they’re not only using history as a foil,” Spalding said, “but they’re using it as a foil to fight and see every­thing through the eyes of race, which is even more problematic.”

The 1776 Cur­riculum, on the other hand, seeks to provide a “knowledge and under­standing of American history and of the American republic as gov­erned by the Con­sti­tution and morally grounded in the Dec­la­ration of Inde­pen­dence,” as found on the curriculum’s website.

Arnn said that America is built around a declared set of prin­ciples at its founding. America’s founding prin­ciples posed a chal­lenge to people of the past, just as they pose a chal­lenge to people in the present, he said. 

“The first prin­ciple is a form of the law of con­tra­diction: A thing hap­pened in the past, or else it did not,” Arnn said. “Once it is past, it cannot change.” 

Arnn explained the impor­tance of an accurate por­trayal of history.

“One finds out about the prin­ciples, choices, and events of the past by reading the record of the past,” Arnn said. “That must be pre­sented fully and fairly.” 

The college intends for the cur­riculum to educate American youth on their nation’s principles.

“The prin­ciples of our country place us, the people, in charge of it,” Arnn said. “We should under­stand the thing we are sup­posed to manage.” 

He explained that as a con­se­quence of this curriculum’s release, youth across America will better under­stand the meaning of their nation.

“One of the things that we must study to be edu­cated is human nature,” Arnn said. “One cannot study human nature without studying government.”

Assistant Provost for K‑12 Edu­cation Kathy O’Toole said the college has long tested and tried this cur­riculum in its Barney Charter Schools.

“We just took the same history and gov­ernment things that are being taught in those schools and we made them available to the general public,” she said. “People need resources for teaching American history and gov­ernment well.” 

She said that the cur­riculum con­tains primary source doc­u­ments, sample tests, quizzes, and key terms as teacher resources. 

“The result is a cur­riculum that is 2,400 pages long, and there’s more on the way,” O’Toole said. “Of course, American history started before the founding, and we’ve got cur­riculum on every­thing before and after coming out over the course of the next year.”

O’Toole said the 1776 Cur­riculum is an attempt to help people look into American history as a whole in an apo­litical way. She expressed her belief that the majority of Amer­icans want to take history seriously. 

O’Toole wrote in a letter to teachers that the 1776 Cur­riculum presents America as a nation “unprece­dented in the annals of human history” for the degree of freedom, pros­perity and peace available to cit­izens and immi­grants alike. 

Spalding said the 1776 Cur­riculum has the ability to bring honest civics edu­cation to America’s youth.

“We thought it was cru­cially important to provide a model, an excellent model of a cur­riculum, as an alter­native,” Spalding said. “We think that cur­riculum really speaks for itself, and will attract a lot of schools, home­schoolers, and teachers to it because it’s not laden with current pol­itics and ideology.” 

Spalding said a civics edu­cation is cru­cially important in any free country, as the pop­ulace must be edu­cated about their nation’s history and gov­ernment. The teaching of history should be “fact-based, honest, and accurate,” showing stu­dents both the good and bad sides of his­torical events.

“The pursuit of truth is an unapolo­getic pursuit,” O’Toole said. “For those who strive for honesty, it cannot be otherwise.”