Photo: Tia Dufour/Official White House Photo
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks on July 3 at South Dakota’s 2020 Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, S.D.

President Trump has unleashed a war of words against schools, accusing them of indoctrinating children, and lumping them together with a favorite target, the news media, and a newer one, “far-left fascism,” which he has linked to the Black Lives Matter protests that have exploded in recent months since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

On Friday, in his speech at Mount Rushmore, he said, “our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.”

Elaborating on that theme, he said “in our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. The violent mayhem we have seen in the streets and cities that are run by liberal Democrats in every case is the predictable result of years of extreme indoctrination and bias in education, journalism and other cultural institutions. 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 they were villains. 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.”

His remarks came while public education has been essentially upended due to the coronavirus pandemic, and there has been little in-classroom instruction, so tying the current protest to any specific instruction would be difficult, if not impossible.

His remarks came on the same day that former Vice President Joe Biden spoke remotely to about 8,000 members of the Representative Assembly of the National Education Association. The tone of his remarks was dramatically different from Trump’s and represented a virtual love-fest between the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate and the nation’s largest teachers’ union. Among other things, he said he would push to triple Title I federal funding targeted to low-income students and double the number of school psychologists, counselors, nurses and social workers in schools.

And in contrast to Trump’s attacks on teachers and teaching, Biden says they should have more authority and independence. “You should have more input on what you teach, how you teach it and when you teach it,” he said. “You are the ones in the classroom, you should have more input.”

Trump continued his critique about indoctrination of children in his remarks the following day at the July 4 picnic, on the South Lawn of the White House, although he did not specifically target schools. “We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children, or trample on our freedoms,” he said.

It was not at all clear which heroes Trump was referring to, the Confederate generals or more recent targets of protests and statue removals like Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson and Father Junipero Serra, a key figure in the Spanish conquest and colonization of California. Nor was it clear what “laws of society and nature” he is referring to.

His comments came against a backdrop of hostility to public schools that has characterized Trump’s entire education policy agenda. Throughout his presidency, he has derided the nation’s public schools by referring to them as “government schools,” the derogatory term used by the conservative right to describe K-12 public schools. On other occasions he and Betsy DeVos, his secretary of education, have repeatedly used the term “failing schools.” In some cases, they have combined the two terms to label public schools as “failing government schools.”

Even during the pandemic, Trump and DeVos have continued to press their “school choice” agenda. DeVos has attempted to ensure that private schools get what Democrats say is an unequal share of federal education coronavirus relief dollars. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, has described one such “microgrant” initiative as a “voucher-like program, a prior initiative that has nothing to do with Covid-19.”

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  1. chris 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Political views do not belong in the classroom. I remember being forced to watch Obama’s inauguration, but now I’m told teachers disallowed students from watching Trump’s. How is this not evidence of political discrimination? Why are kids being taught a different version of history ? How come school districts run by Democrats have plenty of funds but somehow have a higher dropout rate than non-government run schools?

  2. Anonymous student 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I'm a high school student and since I was in 2nd grade I've noticed that about 1/4 of what they teach us in science and history is propaganda to promote the Democrats' point of view. Most of the time it's small things like saying in history class that racism isn't completely gone. Although other times there bigger things that tell you that you have to believe specific things. One example of this is in sixth … Read More

    I’m a high school student and since I was in 2nd grade I’ve noticed that about 1/4 of what they teach us in science and history is propaganda to promote the Democrats’ point of view. Most of the time it’s small things like saying in history class that racism isn’t completely gone. Although other times there bigger things that tell you that you have to believe specific things. One example of this is in sixth grade when we had a test on evolution and one of the questions on a test was multiple choice. In it, the “wrong” answer was that we all came into existence at the same time and the “right” answer was that we evolved from bacteria. You already crossed the line when you teach these things. You don’t need to go even farther to tell us that our beliefs are wrong.
    This last part is to the author. Even if you don’t agree with Trump, he is still the president and deserves respect. Republicans did not like Obama, but we didn’t mock every word he said.

  3. Debra Fredrickson 1 month ago1 month ago

    I am a substitute teacher, former Army journalist, and am very concerned about the actions of our current administration. The propaganda and lies concerning public education presented by Trump in his recent campaign speeches were abhorrent. I read the story by Louis Freedberg (about Trump's speeches on July 3rd and 4th) in our local paper; unfortunately, the story was edited poorly by our Lake County newspaper, so the story ended just after the quote by … Read More

    I am a substitute teacher, former Army journalist, and am very concerned about the actions of our current administration. The propaganda and lies concerning public education presented by Trump in his recent campaign speeches were abhorrent. I read the story by Louis Freedberg (about Trump’s speeches on July 3rd and 4th) in our local paper; unfortunately, the story was edited poorly by our Lake County newspaper, so the story ended just after the quote by Biden…”you should have more input.” This made it sound like a pro-Trump piece… which I discovered it is not, after reading the entire article on your website.

    Thank you for providing more context, but most readers of my local paper likely did not see it. If I had I not done my own research, I would not have a good opinion of EdSource. I left a message for the editor of my local paper to tell them what I thought of how they edited your story, which essentially, kept the full meaning from most of their readers.

  4. Joanne R Kraus 1 month ago1 month ago

    As a teacher, I am deeply disturbed by President Trump’s comments. I do not agree with his politics at all, but I have always taught and demonstrated respect for our government and the office of the President. Additionally, I teach my students to look at all perspectives, and to use critical thinking skills to analyze words and actions. Watch out … my students will grow up and vote!

    Replies

    • Marie 1 month ago1 month ago

      As a teacher, I hope you keep your political views to yourself as far as your students go.

  5. CS 1 month ago1 month ago

    The problem with Trumplicans is that they don’t care what damage Trump is doing because, it’s “owning the libs.” What they can’t understand is that while they are owning the libs, they are owning themselves too. Trump is the classic dictator: 1. Portray press as enemy. 2. Portray education as enemy. 3. Keep masses ignorant and you can tell them what to believe in. This isn’t a “cherry picking pie” contest. This is an incompetent and dangerous illiterate … Read More

    The problem with Trumplicans is that they don’t care what damage Trump is doing because, it’s “owning the libs.” What they can’t understand is that while they are owning the libs, they are owning themselves too. Trump is the classic dictator:
    1. Portray press as enemy.
    2. Portray education as enemy.
    3. Keep masses ignorant and you can tell them what to believe in.

    This isn’t a “cherry picking pie” contest. This is an incompetent and dangerous illiterate imbecile in the White House. Trump fails at everything he gets his tiny hands on. He’s treating America like he treated his businesses and it will take decades to recoup from this con man. If a Trumplican can’t see that, then they shouldn’t be allowed near a voting booth. Elect a clown. Expect a circus.

  6. Harold 1 month ago1 month ago

    What a blatant, slanted, pandering piece of “journalism.” A real hit job. Heaven forbid there should be one response to all these comments plucked like cherries to make the pie of choice.

  7. Seth 1 month ago1 month ago

    I am a teacher. If Trump means developing critical thinking in children by questioning statements made by government leaders, then yes! I suppose in Trump's warped thinking, everything he states is supposed to be treated as fact when it is not and needs to be questioned. I do not see that as teaching hate, but developing individual thinking and do not always accept what is presented as fact. I am continually disgusted by Trump's ignorant … Read More

    I am a teacher. If Trump means developing critical thinking in children by questioning statements made by government leaders, then yes! I suppose in Trump’s warped thinking, everything he states is supposed to be treated as fact when it is not and needs to be questioned. I do not see that as teaching hate, but developing individual thinking and do not always accept what is presented as fact. I am continually disgusted by Trump’s ignorant and inflammatory statements.

  8. mary hart 1 month ago1 month ago

    As a former teacher, I believe the defamatory rhetoric aimed at teachers is designed to placate political extremist groups such as the creators of professor watch list which has opened the window to online threats against professors, including my dear friend an English professor. We should stand up for all educators against the recent barrage of libelous rhetoric. I am concerned for the safety of the nine educators in my family. Thank … Read More

    As a former teacher, I believe the defamatory rhetoric aimed at teachers is designed to placate political extremist groups such as the creators of professor watch list which has opened the window to online threats against professors, including my dear friend an English professor. We should stand up for all educators against the recent barrage of libelous rhetoric. I am concerned for the safety of the nine educators in my family.

    Thank you for your laser focus on this issue. We should encourage language that respects educators. perhaps, the ACLU might explore the possibility of suing to obtain a cease and desist order from this potential risk that threatens the safety of educators