The federal government has no control over local school curriculums, but as usual, Donald Trump isn’t letting that stop him. Trump launched a big push Thursday to make schools teach his far-right, racist version of history, announcing a plan for a national commission to promote a “pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history.” Translation: none of that pesky history of slavery or anything else that makes the U.S. look imperfect.
To Trump, protests against racism are not the result of racism but are the result of schools teaching about racism. If people rise up because the police have brutally killed someone on video? To Trump, it’s “left-wing rioting and mayhem” that “are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long.”
Yeah, it’s the teaching of a history of the United States that includes slavery and atrocities against Native Americans and whatever else Trump doesn’t want taught that makes people angry about racism. It’s not the repeated killing of Black people by agents of the state, not the videos of a man saying “I can’t breathe” and calling out for his mother as the air is ground out of his body, or of a man being shot repeatedly in the back, not the woman killed in her own bedroom.
Trump made clear that this is part of his whole effort to win “suburban housewives,” saying “Patriotic moms and dads are going to demand that their children are no longer fed hateful lies about this country.” Okay, what about truths about hateful things that really did happen? Patriotism means denying the truth? For Trump, maybe, but hopefully that level of embrace of falsehood hasn’t become the dominant mindset of U.S. parents.
“American parents are not going to accept indoctrination in our schools, cancel culture at work or the repression of traditional faith, culture and values in the public square,” Trump said, announcing an indoctrination effort in our schools and as if he isn’t constantly trying to cancel people and things.
This is all another Trump effort to inflame a culture war. He can’t actually set a curriculum. In places where there is a popular outcry against left-wing indoctrination in schools, local control of those schools basically ensures that kids are getting the right-wing indoctrination their parents desire. (You have only to look at information on teaching of creationism vs. evolution in schools to see that in action.) But he thinks that posturing about the magnificence and perfection and unblemished nature of U.S. history will win him some votes.
”I am not teaching my students to hate America,” Louisiana’s 2020 teacher of the year told The Washington Post. “We are teaching our students to embrace our country, even the things that are negative. We’re choosing not to ignore the ghosts of our country’s past.”
And that’s what Trump is so angry about. But 16-year-old student Emma Chan understands the way forward better than Trump ever will. ”You can love a country and feel it’s worth defending and still criticize it,” Chan told the Post. “I think pressing for change is a patriotic thing to do.”