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CEO DATELINE – Academic groups criticize White House ‘patriotic education’ push

Sept. 25, 2020

A Trump administration effort to downplay the role of racism in U.S. history as taught in classrooms received a sharp rebuke from associations representing historians and other scholars, who called it “political theater.”

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President Donald Trump announced Sept. 17 he would form a commission  to develop a “patriotic education” curriculum to be taught in public schools. During a ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., the president decried “a twisted set of lies” that taught students that systemic racism exists in America, going so far as calling such teachings “child abuse,” according to NPR.

However, the American Historical Association blasted Trump’s remarks in a statement co-signed by 29 organizations representing a wide range of scholars. AHA noted that no associations nor historians were consulted about the event. The group added that it watched the president’s “ill-informed observations about American history and history education reluctantly and with dismay.”

“The event was clearly a campaign stunt, deploying the legitimating backdrop of the Rotunda, home of the nation’s founding documents, to draw distinctions between the two political parties on education policy, tie one party to civil disorder, and enable the president to explicitly attack his opponent,” AHA said.

AHA said Trump’s actions were "political theater" to stoke "culture wars that are meant to distract Americans from other, more pressing current issues.” The group added it only reluctantly spoke out on this issue as “we are not interested in inflating a brouhaha that is a mere sideshow to the many perils facing our nation at this moment.”

Other signatories of the statement include the American Anthropological Association, American Sociological Association and American Studies Association.