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    Setting Brushfires of Freedom by Don Jans

    1776 Project For Patriotic Education- Progressivism

    The 1776 Commission, also known as the 1776 Project, was an advisory committee established in September 2020 by President Donald Trump to support what he called “patriotic education”. The commission released The 1776 Report on January 18, 2021, two days before the end of Trump’s term. Academic Historians overwhelmingly criticized the report, saying it was “filled with errors and partisan politics”. The commission was terminated by President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021. We have read the report and found it to be a fair and informative recounting of history. The current administration has their reasons to oppose “Patriotic Education”, but we offer this for you to read and judge for yourself.

    Progressivism

    In the decades that followed the Civil War, in response to the industrial revolution and the expansion of urban society, many American elites adopted a series of ideas to address these changes called Progressivism. Although not all of one piece, and not without its practical merits, the political thought of Progressivism held that the times had moved far beyond the founding era, and that contemporary society was too complex any longer to be governed by principles formulated in the 18th century. To use a contemporary analogy,

    Progressives believed that America’s original “software”—the founding documents—were no longer capable of operating America’s vastly more complex “hardware”: the advanced industrial society that had emerged since the founding.

    More significantly, the Progressives held that truths were not permanent but only relative to their time. They rejected the self-evident truth of the Declaration that all men are created equal and are endowed equally, either by nature or by God, with unchanging rights. As one prominent Progressive historian wrote in 1922, “To ask whether the natural rights philosophy of the Declaration of Independence is true or false, is essentially a meaningless question.” Instead, Progressives believed there were only group rights that are constantly redefined and change with the times. Indeed, society has the power and obligation not only to define and grant new rights, but also to take old rights away as the country develops.

    Based on this false understanding of rights, the Progressives designed a new system of government. Instead of securing fundamental rights grounded in nature, government—operating under a new theory of the “living” Constitution—should constantly evolve to secure evolving rights.

    In order to keep up with these changes, government would be run more and more by credentialed managers, who would direct society through rules and regulations that mold to the currents of the time. Before he became President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson laid out this new system whereby “the functions of government are in a very real sense independent of legislation, and even constitutions,” meaning that this new view of government would operate independent of the people.

    Far from creating an omniscient body of civil servants led only by “pragmatism” or “science,” though, progressives instead created what amounts to a fourth branch of government called at times the bureaucracy or the administrative state. This shadow government never faces elections and today operates largely without checks and balances. The founders always opposed government unaccountable to the people and without constitutional restraint, yet it continues to grow around us.


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