President Donald Trump recently established the 1776 Commission in an attempt to advance “patriotic education.” As a high school social studies teacher I certainly agree a patriotic education is necessary. We should teach students about the importance of separation of powers in our system of government, how a free and independent judiciary can protect basic human rights even when the majority disagrees, and how the setup of Congress and our presidential elections are designed to prevent individual factions from becoming too powerful as argued in the Federalist Papers.
In reading about the 1776 Commission, however, it appears that President Trump’s idea of patriotism and mine are far different. His focus is on defending America against an education which “vilified” our nation’s founders. Despite whatever President Trump wants to believe, recognizing our nation’s flaws and mistakes is necessary in order for democracy to function. In contrast, President Trump has failed to admit his own mistakes his entire adult life, especially during his presidency. Teaching a one-sided history is not good for anybody. It is a negative for our country and undermines the capabilities, knowledge, and potential of our students. Instead a variety of viewpoints should be shared and explored. Teachers must lead relevant discussion and play devil’s advocate as necessary. This is what a patriotic education actually is. My classroom will continue to take this format, and President Trump is welcome to visit it at any time, assuming he can listen quietly and be respectful of the opinions of others