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A History and Civic Education for Every American

A quiet town in southern Michigan boasts The College Baptist Church as a Romanesque architecture styled building. Standing near the church is a small private college with a 400-acre campus that caters to 1,400 students. Among the campus lies the “crown jewel” of Central Hall, a stunning Victorian style building constructed in the late 19th-century. Almost picturesque.

This academic institution, tucked away in a leafy rural town, made headlines when it released the “1776 Curriculum” in July of last year, a resource of American history and civics materials for kindergarten through 12th grade.

For many parents and educators, who were yearning for a traditional education fair to the core of America’s heritage, the arrival of this programme was a relief. But, for skeptics, it may have been seen as the latest attempt to continue former President Donald Trump’s push for a “pro-American” education.

Hillsdale College, which describes itself as “a small, Christian, classical liberal arts college,” delivered an extraordinary collection comprising 2,425 pages of lesson guidance for educators, assessments for students, and a wealth of material for homeschooling parents.

What does the 1776 Curriculum include?

The 45th President, during his last few weeks in office, appointed members to the “1776 Commission.” This advisory committee, led by Larry P. Arnn, Hillsdale College’s president, aimed to support the former President’s vision for a “patriotic education.”

However, the Biden administration disbanded this panel, but they continued to meet nonetheless. Hillsdale’s assistant provost for K-12 education, Dr. Kathleen O’Toole, commented on the extensive programme in a press release to RealClearEducation in July of last year:

Our curriculum was created by teachers and professors—not activists, not journalists, not bureaucrats…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. It is a truly American education.

As of today, the biased opponents to the curriculum have only succeeded in tarnishing America’s historical challenges, triumphs and remarkable achievements and demoralized a not-so-insignificant number of students from respecting their nation, let alone cherishing their unique inheritance as Americans. A nation that might have never been. A nation that is unlike any other in the world. And a relatively young nation evolving with a strong “can-do” optimism that needs reminding of its history and heritage and how it became exceptional in the first place.

The 1776 Curriculum includes teaching resources on American civics, American founding and the Civil War. This collection of work plans to expand and include lessons on colonial America, the early timeline of the Republic, the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, the Great Depression, World War I and II, and the Cold War and modern America.

In a statement to POLITICO, Hillsdale’s assistant provost added that:

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.”

The curriculum offers students and educators a more patriotic approach to learning American history than The New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project” sweeping across the nation’s schools like a plague and claiming that America’s “founding ideals of liberty and equality were false when they were written.”

Indeed, Hillsdale College’s approach challenges the 1619 Project, a programme scripted to convince uninformed American children that their nation’s founding did not occur in 1776 but, instead, in 1619, when the first slave ships reached the shores of the New World.

Unfortunately, 4,500 schools nationwide, including several school districts in Chicago and Buffalo, New York, have reportedly adopted curricula based on the project. Moreover, Hillsdale’s priceless resource arrived when teachers across the United States started to adopt Critical Race Theory precepts into their lesson planning.

When O’Toole was asked, by RealClearEducation, whether the 1776 Curriculum served as a counterweight to the 1619 Project, she said point-blank:

Unlike the 1619 Project and its politicized curricula, the Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum doesn’t use history as a weapon to fight current political battles. Instead, the Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum is a reflection of the honest study of history that has been going on at Hillsdale College and its dozens of affiliated K-12 schools for decades. It’s a content-rich curriculum covering American history, American government, and civics—the complete story of our nation that is honest, inspiring, and unifying.

Note the key word: unifying.

Hillsdale’s curriculum includes former President Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission’s report as a resource for educators and high school students. The structure and content of the curriculum are generally praise-worthy, with the Republic hailed as an exceptional and high-spirited nation that also made sordid mistakes.

As a fair and balanced history programme, the curriculum openly acknowledges where America failed to uphold the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The question, in essence, isn’t whether to teach (or not to teach) the history of slavery and institutional racism but how to impart the truth within the context of America’s founding principles.

Furthermore, O’Toole told RealClearEducation that the curriculum is planned to cultivate an environment of student discussion by asking open-ended questions.

The beauty of our curriculum is that it respects the authority and the role of the teacher as the vehicle through which the students come to understand the material…Rather than giving teachers a script to read from—which is demoralizing to the teacher and fails to respect the dignity of the profession—we give teachers the tools to do their own studying and preparation. This ultimately comes to life in a classroom where the curriculum, the teacher, and the student join in pursuit of truth.

Indeed, the curriculum’s introduction begins with a thought-provoking question, “What ideas, words, and deeds have most significantly formed the world into which students were born?” This opening also contends that students learning history through the lens of race would “resurrect and reinforce in students that they ought to judge, value, and treat people differently.” It is most likely digestible for self-taught students and homeschooling parents—anything but a complex programme packed with incomprehensible lingo.

An outstanding model for every school in America

Hillsdale College represents everything that is great and exceptional about America. With an unapologetically strong Christian ethos, this 178-year-old institution operates independently of government funding, reflecting its entrepreneurial mind and giving heart, to serve and inspire America’s youth. This selective, co-educational college is committed to delivering an education that welcomes students from all walks of life and stays true to the nation’s founding ideals. It has a remarkable ability to deliver the good (no, the brilliance), the bad (actually, the corruption), and the ugly truth about the United States in a candid and compassionate style, fostering a deep sense of gratitude and love of country.

As a liberal arts college, Hillsdale promotes intellectual curiosity, encourages critical thinking, and enables personal growth through rigorous academic challenges. The college values the distinct contribution of each unique individual rather than judging them not as individuals but as members of a group—whatever the nature of that group, be it socio-economic status, political leaning, religion, or race or ethnicity. This is not to say that these factors cannot influence a person’s character, outlook or natural aptitudes; it’s that the individual is held to a high set of standards and expected nothing less than their very best—the throbbing heartbeat of the American people.

Availability to the masses

According to Hillsdale’s Vice President of Washington operations Matthew Spalding, the 1776 Curriculum consists of 85 lessons, all publicly available. Speaking to Breitbart News Daily, he said, “It’s free to anybody who wants to use it: homeschoolers, private schools, public schools…It’s absolutely free to anybody who wants it.”

Spalding also remarked about the 1776 Curriculum serving as a response to an infamous, alternative curriculum:

[Those pushing the 1619 Project narrative] want to fight about race and public policy in America today. We actually want it to be a discussion about history because our curriculum in a K-12 education should be about America’s history, about its civics, about what the country means, about its principles, how those played out, flaws and all.

Hillsdale’s view of the importance of civic education was a key driver in making the curriculum free to download. Arguably, the future of the great American Republic begins at home and then at school. O’Toole told RealClearEducation that since today’s students are tomorrow’s future leaders, a robust civic education is necessary to ensure students can rise to the challenges:

They must also be properly equipped with the knowledge of not just their rights and freedoms in our republic, but their duties and responsibilities as well…Thankfully, this is precisely what our curriculum seeks to do.

The small quiet college in southern Michigan celebrates the pillars of Western Civilization underpinning American society, including Greco-Roman philosophy, Christian theology and modern science. Interwoven are the Magna Carta Libertatum and the writings of English philosopher John Locke, which influenced a parting from the Old World to create the Great Social Experiment and a revolutionary form of government: a Republic.

To quote Benjamin Franklin’s response to an anxious citizen outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” And straight away, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Hillsdale College intends to keep it.

This writer intends to keep it.

How about you?

Content syndicated from Dear Rest of America with permission.

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Dear Rest Of America

Dear Rest Of America is a newsletter written by Cameron Keegan, who independently researches and writes about American politics, faith and culture affecting young people through a conservative disposition. To learn more, visit Dear Rest Of America and for questions, send an email to ckeeganan@substack.com

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