Trump ally Hillsdale College pitches 1619 Project counterweight

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A small Christian college with deep ties to the Trump administration released a "1776 curriculum" on Wednesday, the latest push to continue former President Donald Trump’s mission to create a “patriotic education.”

The nearly 2,400 pages of curriculum from Hillsdale College in Michigan includes lessons on the founding of the U.S., the Civil War and the American government. The college has long been in favor of a civics education that focuses on America’s strength rather than its ills and supported curriculum that is less critical of the U.S. Larry Arnn, the college’s president, led the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, which Trump appointed members to during his last few weeks in office. It was later disbanded by the Biden administration but continued to meet.

The curriculum marks another turn in the national debate over teachings that focus on racism’s role in America’s past and present.

"Though no formal connection exists between the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission and The Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum, Hillsdale College was inspired by the Commission’s call for a restoration of American education grounded on a history that is ‘accurate, honest, unifying, inspiring, and ennobling,’" Kathleen O’Toole, assistant provost for K-12 Education at Hillsdale College, told POLITICO in a statement, noting the document is also the product of "decades of forming and honing curriculum at Hillsdale College and its associated K-12 schools."

The curriculum, available for free online, is a direct challenge to The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which explored how racism and inequality shaped the founding of the country. Several school districts have adopted curricula based on the project.

“Our curriculum was created by teachers and professors—not activists, not journalists, not bureaucrats,” O’Toole said in an announcement about the curriculum. “It comes from years of studying America, its history, and its founding principles, not some slap-dash journalistic scheme to achieve a partisan political end through students.”

What’s in the curriculum: Hillsdale’s curriculum includes Trump’s 1776 Commission’s report as a resource for teachers of all grade levels and for high school students.

The framing for the curriculum is generally positive, with the U.S. touted as a remarkable, unique, heroic institution that made mistakes.

The curriculum is based on a single question, its introduction says: "What ideas, words, and deeds have most significantly formed the world into which students were born?"

The introduction to the package also asserts that students learning an American history focused on race would "resurrect and reinforce in students that they ought to judge, value, and treat people differently" based on skin color.

Still, racism is not ignored in Hillsdale’s package. Slavery is affirmed as the reason for the Civil War, and the curriculum calls for age-appropriate images to demonstrate "the horrors" of it.

But the curriculum also takes a sympathetic tack on slaveowners, noting that George Washington "famously" freed people he enslaved when he died and Thomas Jefferson feared "divine retribution" for slavery in the country.

The curriculum currently covers the United States’ founding, the Civil War, civics and government. It will be expanded to cover Colonial America, the Early Republic, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, the Great Depression, the World Wars, the Cold War and Modern America by the end of the year, according to the announcement.

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