Live from Music Row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Dr. Matthew Spalding, Vice President of Hillsdale College and the Executive Director of the 1776 Commission to the newsmakers line to discuss the dismantling of the 1776 Commission by the Biden administration and new resources for parents of K through 12 students.
Leahy: We are joined now on the newsmaker line by Dr. Matthew Spalding. Kirby, Professor in Constitutional Government at Hillsdale College and Dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Government. Welcome, Dr. Spalding.
Spalding: Great to be with you. Good morning.
Leahy: The Hillsdale 1776 curriculum has been released. Tell us about it and its relationship to the 1776 Commission formed by President Trump and then disbanded immediately upon inauguration by Joe Biden.
Spalding: Well, a quick succession of things. The 1776 Commission, which was formed by the President, I took a leave and was Executive Director of that and we put out in 1776 Report, which you pointed out was immediately acknowledged by executive order because the Biden administration wanted to go in the direction of equity and pursue its racial policies, including things like critical race theory or various versions of that in the federal government.
What they were getting rid of was a traditional approach to looking at the founding, looking at the Declaration, and the Constitution in ways that saw those as driving the narrative of American history. And that’s what they couldn’t abide by. We are in a debate between what seems to be two versions of American history.
They want to go in a completely political direction to pursue their current racial objectives and policy. The report called for new curriculums and Hillsdale, which has been working on teaching and doing teaching and curriculum for decades.
And the college for over a hundred, almost 200 years now has been working on a curriculum. It’s been released two months ago. The 1776 Curriculum and it’s already had 50,000 downloads in a very quick amount of time.
It’s about civics and history meant to fill this immediate void and eventually draw out a full curriculum for anybody who wants to use it.
It’s all free of charge and we’re putting it out there to have an alternative to the absolute absurd curriculum and things being put out by public schools, by critical race theory, and what is going on over the country.
Now there actually is a great alternative for homeschoolers, private schools, public schools, and anybody who wants to use it.
Leahy: Where can people go to download this curriculum? You can go to the main college website, Hillsdale.edu. There’s also a K through 12 website that has other materials for people who teach and have kids. K12.hillsdale.edu.
Any of those you can download, click and there’ll be easy ways to find it and print it off yourself. It’s whole health and pages, all the lessons, questions, and everything would need to teach these materials from K through 12.
Leahy: How many public school teachers have downloaded this and are using it in their classrooms?
Spalding: It’s hard to tell immediately when people are downloading it, but I think probably the people who are downloading and using it immediately are the ones we talked to the most.
Charter school teachers, private school teachers, and home schoolers. But I can tell you we have some evidence and suggestions for people calling and talking with us that there are public school teachers who are stuck in these schools.
They’re being used to transfer this critical race theory stuff. There are some good people still in some of those schools who are looking for alternatives, and they’ll look to this whether public school will adopt this formally or not.
That’s another question. But now there’s something else that you look to in order to offset what they’re trying to make them teach. And let me just reiterate where to go to download this fantastic curriculum. K12.hillsdale.edu.
Leahy: Dr. Spalding, we have this little event here. We call the National Constitution Bee based upon a book that I co-authored, A Guide to the Constitution and Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students. This will be our fifth year. We have some experience in interacting with public school teachers.
And I can tell you it’s not been encouraging in terms of their interest in having traditional American constitutional civic values taught. And it seems to me that this is a systemic problem.
State legislatures around the country have laws that say you should be teaching the Constitution. I’m not seeing it implemented at K12 public schools. Do I have this right? And if I do what can be done to turn it around beyond making this great curriculum from Hillsdale available?
Spalding: No, I think in general, you’re absolutely spot on that’s correct. And you actually alluded to a very important thing that’s the key to the solution here. The federal government under the Constitution and by federal law has no role in curriculum.
As matter of fact, by law, the Department of Education is prevented from getting involved in curriculum. It’s a state matter. States have all the power. State legislatures can give guidance to their departments.
They create the curriculum, they control the public schools, and that goes from the states all the way down to school boards. The most important thing to change the politics of what is going on right now, because I think the debate in curriculum and K through 12 is a cultural manifestation of our national debate is get involved in those things.
If you have the where with all to be involved in a state legislature or have ways to get involved in anything all the way down and especially in school boards, where the decisions made about adopting curriculum are crucially important.
And there states and local communities and school boards have a lot of authority. Don’t want to assume the settle government is taking us over and can fix it, or is the problem.
You can’t think about it. Get involved in those things. It’s going on all over the country. We need more of that because that’s what going to upset the apple cart.
And I think there in those debates, people who are concerned and want to see a more traditional curriculum have not only a foothold but in many ways a great advantage given the people there.
The most interested are the ones that have the children who care for them as opposed to the teachers who often don’t and are merely implementing these bad curriculums.
Leahy: It seems to me that the way to go, if you want to have this great curriculum in your school is to go directly to teachers, directly to the school board, and directly to administrators and present it to them. K12.hillsdale.edu, that’s the short term. The intermediate-term would be by your state legislature to accept and promote this. What are your thoughts on that?
Spalding: No, I think that’s right. The immediate is a school board debate. State legislatures. There are a lot of states. I’ve been very involved in Florida, Texas, Tennessee, other states here in the process that either have and now they’re implementing or they’re changing their city rules and looking ahead.
Departments of Education, that is where the real higher-level political battle is going on and they make those decisions. They can’t then be overridden by the federal government. The federal government has no role here. So that battle is the battle that needs to be won.
Leahy: Why do so many school administrators promote a left-wing, we hate America version of the country?
Spalding: I think the answer there gets into the long-term effect, which, unfortunately, and many people have not been focused on are the teachers’ unions and the effect through the academy of shaping teachers and the creation of curricula.
And then what’s going on in state legislatures. As long as the progressive elements of liberalism, either intellectually or politically or through unions control the process, they’ve been working on this for some time, I think this critical race, which is a bridge too far to say the very least, has revealed what has been going on.
And with COVID we saw our children getting this stuff first hand at home, and I think it’s really kind of pulled back the curtain. Now we see this debate for what it is and have our opening despite the fact that they’ve been working on these things for some time.
Listen to the second hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Dr. Matthew Spalding, vice president of Hillsdale College and the executive director of the 1776 commission to the newsmakers line.
During the second hour, Spalding informed listeners that the commission was still meeting to combat the racist curriculum being peddled by the federal government at the state level. Later in the segment, he urged parents to run for their local school boards and for communities to start their own local 1776 commissions.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line now by Matthew Spalding, executive director of the 1776 Commission and vice president of Hillsdale College. Heading up their graduate school of government at the Washington, D.C. campus. Welcome, Matthew.
Spalding: Good to be with you. Thanks for having me.
Leahy: You were just in D.C. with our good friend, vice chairman of the 1776 Commission, Nashville’s own Carol Swain who is a frequent guest on this program.
Spalding: Yes. The commission, which had made its report on January 18, 2021, and abolished two days later decided to continue meeting. And so we met at our Washington, DC, campus on Monday to talk about what’s going on in the country and continue to think about how we can try to influence that debate.
We issued a statement and plan to continue meeting and participating in what we think is probably one of the most important debates going on in our country right now about education, especially as it relates to how we understand our country.
Leahy: I saw three key action steps coming out of your statement. Number one, you encourage parents to run for local school boards. Number two, you oppose this new Department of Education.
A proposed rule that’s basically going to codify Critical Race Theory across the United States in public schools. And number three, you encourage people locally to form their own 1776 commissions. Tell us about that.
Spalding: Well, let’s start with the race theory question first. The essence of the 1776 report and if you haven’t read it, I would encourage you to read it, mainly because what the media reports and the critics turn out they really just hadn’t read it.
It’s a report about the importance of teaching straight, accurate and honest history, including all the things about our past, like slavery and those horrendous institutions that were eventually abolished.
But through that, history warts and all, we can still see the principles, the founding and why this country is worth preserving. We study it and teach its principles to our students.
The report also talks about how there’s been the rise over just in the last decade or so, a number of radical arguments which instead of emphasizing that all men are created equal, with regard with Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln and many, if not most, of the American founders.
The argument is that we should look at it through the eyes of race. We should teach students to consider the race of their fellow students and of history and everything they look at. We think that is itself a form of racism because you’re teaching racism and unjust.
And that’s what a lot of the practical debate is. The federal level in many states trying to impose Critical Race Theory, set aside from what we call, equity out of history, is about teaching race as the essence of our educational system.
That at the federal level in the form of Department of Education regulations and states, it’s got to be stopped. We strongly mind everyone but the states, state government, state legislatures and localities, local school boards are the most important thing for controlling curriculum.
So we strongly encourage Americans, especially parents with children in schools run for the school board. Get control of those school boards. Prevent this from happening. Institute good curriculum. And in order to do this broadly, this is a public debate now, we encourage states and localities to create their own 1776 commissions.
Just because we were abolished, we’re going to continue meeting. This is an important question. We are citizens. We encourage others to do the same. So we’ve got to engage in the national conversation.
Leahy: If people here in Nashville want to form their own 1776 Commission, what should be the first step they should take?
Spalding: I think the first thing you might want to do is contact their governor or someone in the state. If you’ve got a good governor, it’s always good to have the legitimacy of that, because then you can work with your Department of Education and get good appointments.
But having said that, you could have a city create a 1776 Commission. A group of private citizens could. But I think it’s important to have a very clear concept of what’s pulling you together.
Perhaps you want to center around which we would encourage the principles of the 1776 report. There’s a pledge being pushed out there called 1776 Action that citizens can sign up to pledge to uphold these principles and stop Critical Race Theory.
It’s really got to be pulled together around those things. What is it you want to prevent, which is important to prevent, but also what is the alternative? And the alternative I think we all think and this is true forever on the left and the right, conservative, liberal is 1776.
The principles of the Declaration of Independence played out in our history through our constitutional system. And that’s got to be what holds together. Find your fellow citizens who are concerned about that.
Figure out how you can come together. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to focus on? Is it a local school board? Are you’re working with a local school or university? Working with a legislature or someone who has the authority to pass and create curriculum?
Leahy: We’ve been doing a little bit like that here at The Tennessee Star. We set up our own little educational foundation, the Star News Education Foundation. We have for five years now been doing a National Constitution Bee based upon the book that we wrote called the Guide to the Constitution and Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students.
And we give away the winners, actually get educational scholarships. We do it every October. In fact, Carol Swain was present at our last National Constitution Bee. And I would like to invite you to come down and take a look at it.
Spalding: I think you find it very interesting that’s a wonderful example of what folks should be doing. For the longest time, there are lots of people who are concerned about these questions.
This is not something new that we’ve invented at the 1776 Commission. But I think now that all of that work takes on a new meaning and new importance and a new intensity and we need more of it.
And we need to understand that this has implications for our politics because the education of our students now forms the citizens of tomorrow. And we’ve got to focus on these questions.
Leahy: Tell us a little bit about this U.S. Department of Education proposed rule. I think it’s in the final stages. What is it? Where is it going and will it be implemented?
Spalding: Well, here are the two big things to keep in mind. There’s a massive piece of legislation in the United States Congress that plans to spend about a billion dollars a year for five years. $5 billion on civics education.
That’s a massive amount of money. What the regulators at the Department of Education have signaled to us very clearly is that the administration, through a regulatory process, wants to direct that money to things like Critical Race Theory that has passed the comment stage and the regulation will now go forward.
If that legislation passes Congress, you’ve now got the Biden administration pointing as much of that billion dollars a year towards these forms of education which actually are teaching our students racism.
Leahy: That proposed rule has gone through the next step and it’s been approved?
Spalding: It’s gone through what is called the comment period that is now closed. We issued our comment last week. That means that they can now implement that regulation if they choose to proceed.
Leahy: Well, of course, they’re going to choose to proceed because that’s their view.
Spalding: We presumed they would proceed. Exactly.
Leahy: Why have a comment period if you’re going to just do it?
Spalding: In theory, you’re required by law of a comment period in case you want to adjust it. But I assume they are going to make no adjustments. This is going to go forward. If they then have that money which Congress is on the verge of wanting to pass, they’re going to be able to direct a lot of money towards really bad things.
Leahy: Will Congress pass that bill?
Spalding: I sure hope not. There’s been a lot of uprising against it. But having said that, it’s got sponsorship by Republicans and Democrats.
Leahy: Which Republicans are sponsoring that bill?
Spalding: Unfortunately, Senator Cornyn from Texas. He’s the chief sponsor.
Leahy: Oh, my goodness. What’s the name of the bill?
Spalding: It is called the Civics Secures Democracy Act. It’s a very generic name. But look it up and you should tell people to call and try to prevent that from passing.
Leahy: Last question for you. Do you think that the federal government should have a role in funding K12 public schools?
Spalding: That’s a great question. Another big theme in our statement and in the report itself. The federal government has no role in shaping curriculum. That was not only not and was intentionally given to the states.
States control curriculum. Do you remember the debate? I think we all remember this huge debate we had on Common Core a number of years ago when the federal government tried to influence the curriculum.
That’s what’s going on again with civics right now with that bill I mentioned and what the administration is
Leahy: The parents are going to have to really move on this aren’t they Matthew Spalding, Executive Director of 1776 Commission. Thanks so much for joining us.
Spalding: And that’s exactly why. Thank you so much.
Leahy: And come down to the Constitution Bee.
Spalding: I would love to.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Matthew Spalding” by Hillsdale.