“If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted and punished,” he said.
Trump blamed public schools for the popular uprisings across the country that have led to the removal of statues honoring leaders of the Confederacy and other historical figures who owned slaves, such as George Washington.
“Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes but that were villains,” he said. “The radical view of American history is a web of lies, all perspective is removed, every virtue is obscured, every motive is twisted, every fact is distorted and every flaw is magnified until the history is purged and the record is disfigured beyond all recognition.”
We will not dwell on the multiple ironies in his accusations, not the least of which is that Trump himself has ridiculed and fired people who haven’t agreed with him and has alarmed many Americans, who say he is ignoring constitutional norms and employing authoritarian tactics. That includes the violent removal of peaceful protesters in a park across the White House on June 1 so that Trump could walk across it to a church for a photo opportunity with him holding up a Bible.
We will note that Trump is pushing a view of public education in the country that has long been espoused by many Republicans: that public K-12 schools and institutions of higher education are cauldrons of subversion where teachers mold children into being politically correct leftists.
Over recent years, many state legislators have incorporated this line of thinking into their assault on public education and their funding cuts for public colleges and universities.
Meanwhile, Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has made clear her disdain for public schools, once calling them “a dead end” and making her No. 1 priority the expansion of alternatives to traditional public schools.
This line of thinking ignores research showing that families have far more impact on the political leanings of young people than do schools and the very mission of schooling is to help young people learn to be independent thinkers who consider evidence before making decisions.
Ryan Werenka, a high school social studies teacher and department chair in the Troy School District in Michigan, tweeted a correction to Trump, writing: “Mr. Trump, I fixed your speech. ‘Our schools teach children to be active citizens and critical thinkers. They are taught to see the founders as humans, not statues. This approach reveals the greatness of our country and work left for future generations to make it greater still.’ ”
Another person on Twitter, Shari Torrence Krause of Athens, Ga., wrote: “The words from the president made me literally sick to my stomach. I feel like telling him that not all public school kids grow up to be liberals and private school kids grow up to be conservatives."