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What a Trump Directive on ‘Anti-American Propaganda’ Means for the Ed. Dept.

By Evie Blad — September 10, 2020 2 min read
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The U.S. Department of Education will review employee activities and trainings to comply with a government-wide directive against programs that include “anti-American propaganda,” Politico reported Wednesday.

That directive, sent by the White House Office of Management and Budget last week, instructs heads of all federal agencies to “identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory/white privilege,’ or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.”

The directive comes as President Donald Trump makes his positions on race and the teaching of “American exceptionalism” in schools part of his re-election push. He has pushed back on affordable housing initiatives, saying they would harm “suburban housewives.” And, over the weekend, Trump tweeted that the Education Department would strip schools of their funding if they teach a curriculum based on the 1619 Project, published by the New York Times Magazine, which examined the impact of slavery in America. (Trump does not have authority to pull federal funding over the issue.)

Representatives for the Education Department did not respond to questions about how the agency will carry out the White House memo or about Trump’s tweets.

Citing an internal email, Politico reported the agency will examine internal employee activities, including book clubs, to look for discussions of issues like white privilege. It will also explore external contracts for trainings on such issues, which have been popular in the private sector amid ongoing protests over racial injustice around the country.

The White House memo details the president’s concerns with such trainings:

“For example, according to press reports, employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that ‘virtually all White people contribute to racism’ or where they are required to say that they ‘benefit from racism,’” the memo says.

Advocates for equity training in schools point to racial disparities in things like school discipline rates and educational outcomes. Helping teachers explore their own internal biases and experiences can help improve the school environment for all students, they say.

The memo apparently applies to internal agency activities conducted by federal employees and not to schools that receive grants from the agency.