SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem announced on Twitter she has singed a pledge promising to ‘save our schools.’ This pledge, the ‘1776 Action’ pledge, appears to mirror the core principles of the former Trump administration’s ‘1776 Commission Report’, which was derided by historians and educators as being an attempt to whitewash U.S. history by putting forth a false version of events.
The commission report was lambasted for seeking to minimize the history of slavery in the United States and for attempting to launder the images of founding fathers such as Washington and Jefferson, both of whom were slave owners. The report also excluded the country’s history with, and treatment of, indigenous populations.
Throughout the report, which was removed from the White House site by the Biden administration, continually sought to gloss over some of the more difficult and challenging aspects of America’s history, all while condemning progressive views and civil rights.
The pledge follows a similar outline, stressing that figures such as our founding fathers should be honored as heroes. The final belief espoused in the pledge eludes to the claim by 1776 commissioners that our education system is teaching children to hate their country.
The pledge says that the signatory will take steps to restore ‘patriotic education’ and cultivate in children a ‘profound love’ for the country. It calls for the prohibition of curriculum that the organization sees as politicized.
In her Tweets announcing her commitment to this pledge, Noem wrote that she is the first candidate in the country to sign the pledge and repeats the claim that schools are teaching kids to hate their country. Her second Tweet links to the organization’s Twitter page, which in turn provides a link to the website with the pledge, which KELOLAND News has determined was registered in Toronto, Canada.
One noteworthy criticism leveled at the 1776 report is that the panel that created it contained no professional historians. KELOLAND News decided to speak with one, and reached out to Chuck Vollan, an Associate Professor of history at South Dakota State University.
Asked about the 1776 report and pledge, Vollan says that it is an attempt to cast American history in a wholly positive light and does not recognize the complexity of the struggle to live up to our own ideals. This is a problematic idea, in his mind, and he says it makes the story both less rich and less meaningful.
“If this was another country, we would probably use the word propaganda,” Vollan said.
When it comes to the idea that schools are teaching Americans to hate their country, Vollan says that’s news to him.
“I’ve devoted my life to teaching,” he said. “I don’t think that you’re going to find anybody who’s teaching history who does so because they hate America, or want to raise a generation of students who hate America.”
Vollan says what he’s seen over the course of the last several decades is a broadening of the story in an attempt to really look at all people who are involved. This, he says, requires discussions of things such as race, ethnicity, gender and class. These topics, he says, can make some people uncomfortable.
Vollan doesn’t shy away from America’s racial history.
“The reality is that when this nation was founded, power was vested in a relatively small number of people. White, land-owning males,” he said.
In juxtaposition to the pledge’s call to hold America’s founders up as heroes, Vollan says that he teaches his classes not to deify past figures.
“The reality was they’re human beings,” he said. “We don’t do them any favors, and certainly make it harder for ourselves to really understand who they were.”
Despite the nuance and criticisms present in his teaching of American history, Vollas says he still loves his country. “We paint with a fine brush in history,” he said.