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State program opposes Trump’s call for ‘patriotic education’

President Donald J. Trump’s proposal to promote “patriotic education” through the recently created “1776 Commission” has generated opposition in Sacramento that runs all the way to Madera.

Last week, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced that Madera Unified was one of 10 districts that had been selected by the California Department of Education to receive a grant to participate in Thurmond’s “Education to End Hate” initiative, an avowed alternative to Trump’s proposal. The grant recipients will share $200,000 in the first round in the implementation of the initiative. 300 districts made application for the grant, which is being funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. In addition to Madera Unified, Eureka City Schools, Lucia Mar USD, Mountain Empire USD, Ojai USD, Petaluma City Schools District, San Lorenzo USD, Union Elementary School District, Willits Elementary Charter School, and Wright Elementary School District were recipients of the grant.

In announcing his initiative, Thurmond said it was meant to act as an “antidote to acts of hate and hate speech that have risen during Trump’s presidency. He congratulated the grant recipients for showing their communities that “Education has the power to make meaningful, lasting change.” The grants will fund teacher training to combat hate, bigotry, racism, and other forms of bias or prejudice in schools.

As a practical matter, the training will address anti-racist teaching methodology as well as discovering hidden bias and its impact on students and families. The training will also look at privilege in America, systems of oppression at work in society, and improving Native American Studies.

It is also clear that Thurmond’s initiative is set to turn the spotlight on any attempt to white-wash American history.

“It’s time to double down on our efforts to combat all forms of hate, bias, and bigotry by digging deeper into the complexities of our diverse and difficult histories — not denying or ignoring them,” Thurmond announced.

It was Trump’s view of American History that moved Thurmond to issue his “Education to End Hate Initiative. The President announced he was promoting “patriotic education to counter lessons that divide Americans on race and slavery and teach students to hate their own country.” The President claimed he was trying to “better enable a rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union.”

The “Education to End Hate” initiative has three components. In addition to the educator training grants, the CDE will host a series of virtual classroom sessions, broadcast live throughout the state. They will be designed to “engage students, educators, and families in a wide-ranging dialogue about the many forms of bias young people across California face — and ways schools can lead efforts to end discrimination.”

Thurmond will also convene a public roundtable discussion among leaders from prominent racial and social justice organizations, educators, and state lawmakers to “brainstorm additional ideas for ways schools can influence the change necessary to ensure a physically and emotionally safe learning environment that is inclusive for all students.”

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