Transcript: Ian Rowe on remote learning and civic education

November 18, 2020

The following is an unedited transcription of remarks delivered by Ian Rowe, resident fellow at AEI focusing on education, upward mobility, family and adoption, during a virtual event with Sutherland President Rick Larsen on Nov. 16, 2020. Watch the full video here.

Rick Larsen

Ian, with so many areas to cover, I always find it important in these discussions to establish a little bit of a baseline, and specifically, I’d like to cover in sections the importance of how we learn and what we learn. So let’s begin with how we learn, but specifically, tell us about your passion for education and learning. Where did it begin?

Ian Rowe

Well, thank you for that question. It is important to establish the baseline. I think, for most of us, most of where everything begins is within your own family, and my parents immigrated from Jamaica, West Indies. My parents were married for 48 years before my dad passed away. And for my parents, they came to the United States with the traditional American dream. They had aspirations for their own careers and for their two sons, and my dad got his education, and my mom. My dad became one of the first Black engineers at IBM, and my mom worked on Wall Street in the financial services industry for an organization then known as Manufacturers Hanover Trust, which some may know has developed into Chase.

And my parents established education as the great equalizer. They actually knew that the United States… They had encountered discrimination because they had lived in England a few years. They faced challenges, but they knew that even with those challenges, America was a country that their two kids could achieve great things if they had the support of a strong family, a strong faith commitment, and I’ve been very lucky to live that dream. And now, I want to impart those same lessons to kids of all races, because these principles around education, strong family, faith, they’re universal, and accessible to everyone.

Larsen

And I think it’s safe to say there’s perhaps never been such a unique time where your perspective needs to be shared. So let’s talk about the how of learning for a moment. You have developed expertise on remote learning as a concept. Technology has prompted expansion and experimentation around remote learning for some time now, but COVID has forced teachers, parents, and students into a remote learning environment, whether they’re ready or not. 

Rowe

Yes.

Larsen

Can you give us a little bit of an overview why some are thriving in that environment and others are struggling? 

Rowe

Well, yeah, you’re right. I mean, for the last decade, I ran a network of public charter schools in the heart of New York City, elementary and middle schools in the South Bronx, 2000 students, and come March, we were thrust into a situation where suddenly all of our physical school buildings were closed, and first thing is we had to take care of basic items such as did our kids even have computers at home? Did they have a wireless connection? So we had surveyed our families prior, because there were certainly strong signs that we were leading to a closing. So we surveyed our families and got a sense of just what the physical capacity was, and we ended up delivering nearly 1000 Chromebooks to our families. We set up Wi-Fi hotspots in housing projects. We even set up, even for some of our kids who live in homeless shelters, we worked with the leadership there to get physical spaces within the homeless shelter that kids could have a space to learn. So this was even before you get to the basics of how you do remote learning.

And frankly, I think a lot of organizations, because, I mean, for a long time, many of us in education have thought about how do you leverage technology in such a way that you enhance computer learning? And frankly, there wasn’t as much progress made, and so I think most [inaudible 00:21:35] but I and a few other leaders came together in April, when we were really in the midst of the COVID pandemic, and we basically said all across the country, it seemed like many schools were basically just giving up. They were giving out worksheets, or they were just relieving teachers of the need to teach at all, just saying, “We’ll just pick this back up in the fall.” And for us, we felt that was unacceptable. 

And not only were schools being challenged with the prospect of, you know, not being prepared in the fall, they also didn’t have a plan for the summer, which is already an opportunity that, we’ve seen summer learning loss. So we came up with an idea to create a very robust online instructional program called the National Summer School Initiative, now called Cadence, and we put together an amazing plan, wherein about four weeks we put together the infrastructure so that we educated 12,000 students across 17 states this past summer, in a five week summer program focused on reading, math, and some pretty amazing enrichment programs like dance, yoga, chess. And we discovered a pretty powerful way to leverage technology in such a way that you could tap into some of the best teachers in the country so that they could have a one-to-many relationship. And so, I can talk more about that, but we were very excited by what we were able to leverage. So out of the crisis, I think has come opportunity.

Larsen

You know, often, real innovation is preceded by real discomfort. 

Rowe

Right. 

Larsen

So those involved in this process all around, administratively, teaching, frontline, parents, students, should the expectation be, “Oh, we’ll get through this and then we’ll get back to normal?” Or is the landscape changed?

Rowe

I think the landscape has fundamentally changed, and really, I don’t think any of us know exactly what all of the lessons are that are going to survive. But a few things are clear. One is, more parents have now gained greater visibility into what their kids are actually learning all day. And frankly, they’re not always excited by what they’ve seen. So this movement to what are called pandemic pods, more parents taking more greater control over their kids’ education, I think that is going to survive. I think there’s going to be an increased amount of home schooling or micro-schooling, where you have smaller learning environments. I just, it just, it would be very hard to see how that goes back into the genie, the proverbial genie bottle. I just think more parents are going to become much more engaged.

I also think that in terms of technology, you know, one of the things that we found is that, for example, you might have a great third grade teacher who reaches the 20 or 25 kids in her or his classroom, and historically, you were limited. And if you had other third grade teachers that weren’t so great, you know, their students didn’t get the benefit of that premier teacher. What we were able to do with Cadence learning, which is the extension of the National Summer School Initiative, that, what we call now, mentor teacher was able to reach many kids, not only in their physical school building, but kids all across the country, working in partnership with a what we call a partner teacher, who had probably about 20 kids in their care. So you still preserve a more intimate relationship, but now, many more kids can be reached by a teacher with exceptional instructional capacity.

That, I feel, if that innovation does survive, then we might actually have something very interesting, because then, every kid can have access to a great teacher who, by the way, is also still able to interact with the local partner teacher. So you’re building the local partner teacher’s capacity so that someday they may become the mentor teacher. But it allows a whole new way to leverage top talent, and for many of us who’ve been doing work in remote education, we do hope that that’s something that does survive.

Larsen

Interesting. For those just joining, we’re speaking with Ian Rowe, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and we want to remind our audience, if you have questions as this conversation unfolds, and you may, especially in the next section we’re about to discuss, please email your questions to si@sifreedom.org, and we’ll get to as many as we can.

You know, I want to touch on something that you just mentioned about parents perhaps becoming exposed in a new way or for the first time in what their children are actually learning as they look over their shoulder and observe a lesson delivered by a laptop. We are hearing comments from parents about things that they are impressed with, and things they are concerned about. I want to ask from your perspective, as we shift now from how we’re learning to what our children may be learning, you earned a diploma in electrical engineering from Brooklyn Technical High School, and that’s one of New York City’s most elite public schools. It specializes in science, technology, and math. Clearly, you have capacity and expertise in science, technology, and math. But I want to ask you personally, where do you rate the study of history, civics, and citizenship compared to STEM studies, and why? 

Rowe

Well, good question. Well, you don’t actually have to ask me. We could ask the National Assessment for Educational Progress, which is also known as the nation’s report card. Earlier this year, they released data on what is the understanding of American history and civics of 12th graders across the country. I think the percent of kids understanding of civics, which is basic elements of American democracy, 24% across the entire country. I believe the understanding of U.S. history was 15%, that’s 15%. We’re going through a civic education crisis in our country for sure. I mean, STEM is slightly better, but even in math, the proficiency rates in 2019, I think, were 24% across the country, based on the nation’s report card.

So in all areas, our educational system is suffering under a huge weight, and yet, the dialogue often seems to focus on racial disparities, of which there are some, but the point is, across the board, the U.S. educational system is at risk of not keeping our country competitive. And so, we need a broader based discussion about how kids are learning, what kids are learning, across race, across income levels, and not what seems to be a strategy to sort of chunk people up by race or by class, and then narrow in on particular segments, when across the board, in history, in civics, in science, we’re not making the kinds of gains that we should be as a country.

Larsen

It’s interesting for me, and for us at Sutherland as we’re researching this issue, I’m heartened to hear science, technology, math, civics, and history all mentioned in the same continuous thought. This Sputnik moment that the Obama administration cited years ago, where we accelerated and prioritized STEM, it had to do with national security, global standing, economic strength, stability. Would not the concepts of history and civics, and the resulting citizenship provide those same stabilizers? 

Rowe

I would certainly hope so. And it also would provide an inspiration. You know, the Sputnik moment, among other moments of American innovation, as you said earlier, happened in times of crisis or perceived crisis, where we as a nation had to mobilize our resources around particular goals. And the telling of history, particularly American history, you know, it’s an exceptional story. It’s one that’s flawed, certainly. It’s one that has stories of slavery and oppression embedded within it. It also has stories of incredible resilience and triumph over adversity that has allowed this country to continue to progress and grow.

And so, when you look at stories around innovation, the number of patents that have created unbelievable freedom and prosperity around the world. So teaching of civics and history is actually related to potential advances in STEM, because it provides kind of the undergirding and inspiration for why kids should want to pursue this in the first place. 

Larsen

Interesting. I was reading, I believe, an interview you did a few months ago, and it had to do with what could be considered philosophical debates about when our founding occurred, and there are several points of view, from the Declaration of Independence to the signing of the Constitution. And then enter concepts like the 1619 Project, which some may argue not only promise to change our past, but our future. Could I ask you to drill down a little deeper on why an accurate and complete study of history is so important? What are the consequences of altering, modifying, omitting important parts of our history?

Rowe

Well, yeah, I mean, selective memory, selective amnesia is no way to craft a story of any country or culture, because if you start to cherry pick or create narratives based on contemporary issues, you’re actually doing a great disservice to the country. And the New York Times 1619 Project, frankly, has been very explicit about its objectives to reframe American history to say that the founding was truly 1619, that America was founded as a slaveocracy, not a democracy. The 1619 Project claims that the founding ideals were false when they were written, that America has, you know, anti-racism embedded in the DNA of the country. And these are incredibly noxious and perverse notions. And then, when you read the 1619 Project, you realize it ignores, unbelievable, it doesn’t include people like Frederick Douglass. It doesn’t include unbelievable achievements like the Rosenwald Schools, which were 5000 schools built by Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald, in a time of segregation. Unbelievable stories of resilience and partnership that are part of a complete telling of the American story.

And so, one of the reasons I speak out so much about these things is that, you know, when we built a curriculum that we’ll talk about, with the 1776 Unites Project. But one of the reasons it’s so important, because I think the New York Times 1619 Project was trying to sort of resurrect this feeling of subjugation, and the author, Shelby Steele, has this great line where he says, “When people don’t know how to handle their freedom, they reinvent their oppression.” And I think it applies to 1619, because, in a sense, they’re trying to say that nothing has changed. There’s no progress, and so, whatever existed in 1619, if you’re a Black person, you are just as oppressed today as you were 400 years ago, and thus, as a result, you’re so powerless in the face of White supremacy, the only solution is that the federal government needs now start showering the descendants of Black slaves with money, $150,000 to $200,000 per descendant, something like $14 trillion. And so you just think about this message, it’s inherently debilitating.

And so, when you ask, you know, how important it is to tell [inaudible] …

Larsen

If our audience can hear me clearly, we’ve had our video freeze up a little bit on Ian’s end. … Ian, are you back?

Rowe

I am.

Larsen

Wonders of technology, demonstrating their glitches here for us. You were stating how important it is that rather than take the view of a debilitating compensation due to all who have been oppressed that there’s perhaps a more positive approach.

Rowe

Yeah, I mean, America is a story of a set of core principles that, when embraced, people can become agents of their own uplift. So when you look at family, faith, hard work, free enterprise, entrepreneurship, again, those are principles and practices that are accessible to everyone. That’s what my parents came to this country to pursue, and this is how communities of all races, of all ethnic backgrounds, have moved from persecution to prosperity. And it’s unfortunate that the 1619 Project seems to be determined to make the case that America is not in fact an exceptional place, that those founding principles were false, and somehow out of the reach of Black people in this country, and that is insidious and debilitating.

Larsen

Here’s an interesting point, and if we find ourselves thanking a disruption, like a pandemic, for this, might be a bit of a stretch, and yet there might be something to be grateful for here. It’s been our experience that a lot of parents are becoming aware of the fact that these alterations, these versions of history are being taught today. This isn’t something that you read about that could happen. It is something that is happening. Could you explain to people how far-reaching, how pervasive the 1619 Project may be in public schools across the country today? 

Rowe

Yeah, so it’s not only the 1619 Project, it’s this larger construct of critical race theory, that starts with the premise that, again, America is a racist country, and if there’s any racial disparity, therefore [inaudible] racism as the [inaudible] there are only race-based solution. So the 1619 Project [inaudible] that has now been deployed in I think about 3500 schools across the country, teaching the very things that we’re talking about, which I think are very dangerous.

But again, even beyond 1619, for example, in San Diego, the school system there looked at failure rates by race, and they saw that 23% of black kids were I think were getting Ds or Fs, and only 7% of white kids were getting Ds or Fs. So rather than analyze, well, what’s happening with the 77% of kids, Black kids, who seem to be doing okay, they said no, you know, there’s a racial disparity between the Black and White kids in terms of failure, and so therefore we need to become an anti-racist school system. And one of the first acts that they deployed was to say, “Well, you know, these Black kids, they can’t really get their homework in on time, so let’s remove submitting your homework assignments on time as part of your grade.” I mean, it’s the most insidious thing. That is, so, in order to be anti-racist, we need to lower our standard, and say, “Well, we can’t expect these kids to get their homework in on time.”

Or, another change that they made was that instead of handing in your, instead of doing assignments, you know, throughout the year, the only thing that will matter is your grade at the end of the year. Well, certainly, one should be able to demonstrate mastery, but if over the course of the year, you know, you have to have certain assignments in, that’s, I mean, you know, I don’t know of any job or boss that will say, “Yeah, just show me the product at the end. You don’t need to check in with me at any time.” And so, these are very subtle, but these are the kinds of changes being made in school boards across the country that seem to have a somewhat benevolent objective, which is to reduce racial disparity, but in fact, what they’re doing is lowering standards to some very low common denominator, which actually hurts children.

Larsen

It’s the perfect time to… There’s a phrase that has found its way into my thought process, and I’m exploring it constantly. Is what you’re describing, could this be characterized as the soft bigotry of low expectations?

Rowe

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve come to believe it’s the hard bigotry of low expectations, because you just you just cannot… I mean, in New York City, for example, you mentioned, I went to Brooklyn Tech High School, which is one of the, you know, one of the selective high schools in New York City. You have to take a test to get in, but because there’s not enough of a percent of minority students, and by the way, not enough Black and Hispanic students, there are a number of Asian students there. But because there’s not enough, the chancellor has come up with the idea, “Well, let’s just eliminate the test. Let’s just eliminate the test, and manufacture some other ways to create some kind of racial equity in terms of representation.” And again, wait, so rather than focusing on the K to 8 systems that are preparing all of kids, that is not achieving good outcomes, let’s just ignore that, and instead, eliminate the objective standard.

This is just one of many examples that, it might be well-intended, but all it does is reduce expectations and convince low-income minority kids that they can’t compete at the same level. And that, for me, is actually one of the most racist things that someone could do.

Larsen

Yeah, you use an interesting word. I was, as I was listening, I wanted to ask you, can you perceive within this any good intent, or does it feel more like some ideologically-driven, misplaced approach to solutions that could be found if we stopped lowering all of the expectations across the board?

Rowe

I think these kinds of actions make the speaker feel better about themselves, versus actually focus on the actual outcomes for kids. And the number one thing we have to do for kids, especially kids in low-income communities, or in communities where they have faced historical discrimination, is to have the highest of expectations. Life isn’t fair. And, you know, life, you’re gonna face struggles for a whole bunch of reasons, whether it’s a pandemic that comes out of nowhere, or issues based on race or class or gender, or being tall, being short, any number of things. The question is how are you going to respond? How do we build within young people the belief that they can actually control their destiny, even in the face of adversity. That’s why we need to focus on things like developing personal agency, understanding a sense of responsibility, strong academic backgrounds. Those are the things that allow people to prosper and propel their lives forward, not, you know, making yourself feel better by reducing expectations or reducing standards.

Larsen

Okay, let’s shift a little bit. We’re discussing some, rightfully so, we’re discussing some concerning trends. Let’s discuss positive trends. Tell us more about the 1776 Unites project. How does it differ? Where does it seek to take the minds of young learners?

Rowe

Yeah, so in February of this year, Bob Woodson, who’s been a legendary leader in low-income communities across the country for the last 40 years, basically said, you know, there’s this New York Times project, 1619, that’s, you know, speaking for Black people, essentially, and saying that the country was founded in racism. You had movements like the Black Lives Matter movement that, all of these efforts claiming to speak for Black people, to say that we’re oppressed, we’re subjugated, we can’t do anything until, you know, White people take their proverbial boot off of our neck.

And so, Bob Woodson said, “You know what? It’s time for there actually to be a counter narrative, that the Black community is not monolithic, and that there are many of us, millions in fact, who have succeeded, past and present, by embracing the founding ideals of our country, and that actually we believe that those founding ideals are the tools through which individuals can discover their ability to better their lives. And so, Bob, I was able to, I was honored to connect with him and a number of other scholars. We started writing essays to say that there’s just a very different view. That the story of 1619 is an incomplete story. That there are millions of Black Americans, and Americans of all races, that have embraced the founding ideals to be successful. So, 1776 Unites, we came together, and it’s been very powerful. 

We then, we realized though that the 1619 Project was not satisfied with just having a magazine issue. They started to distribute a curriculum, as I mentioned before, so 1776 Unites, we have created a curriculum that is now in its early stages. It will ultimately be K through 12. We announced it just around Constitution Day, on September 17th, and just in the five, six weeks that we released it, just at the high school level, more than 5000 downloads have occurred, 70% of which are people who describe themselves as educators. So we know that we’re tapping into something that is very desired. And just to give you a sense of what’s in the curriculum, we feature Black Americans, past and present, who you may not know, but again, who embraced the ideals of family and faith and the hard work, to pursue their own American dream.

So, Biddy Mason, a woman, you know, born a slave and died a millionaire, and became a great philanthropist. Or Elijah McCoy, who was the children of slaves, became an inventor and an engineer, talk about STEM. His products were so unique and powerful that in the train industry, they were so successful that all these knockoffs were created. And so, when other engineers went to buy his products and they encountered the knockoffs, the engineer said, “No, no, no. I want the Real McCoy,” which is a phrase many people may know of, but aren’t familiar with the fact that it’s associated with the child of slaves. There are many, many of those kinds of stories, so part of the 1776 Unites curriculum, we have lesson plans that feature unbelievable people just like that, to talk about how they encountered discrimination, slavery, oppression, all of these things, in their lives, and yet were able to embrace the ideals of our country in order to move forward. So there’s a whole segment that we focus on those kinds of inspirational stories, in what we call the look back.

And then the look forward component will be focused on those behaviors that we want kids of all races to embrace. So for example, there’s something called the success sequence, which is a set of behaviors that if you finish your education, get a full-time job of any kind, just so you learn the dignity and discipline of work. And if you have children, marriage first. People who pursue that series of decisions, in that order, 98% of the time avoid poverty. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s certainly critical information young people of all races should have, to know the best ways to increase their likelihood of economic and other forms of success in their own life. So we’re very excited that the 1776 Unites curriculum is going to include both these inspirational stories of largely unknown African Americans who embraced ideals that are accessible to everyone, while also having look-forward components on things like the success sequence, entrepreneurship, how to raise capital if you have a business idea. That’s what we believe is part of an uplifting, aspirational sense of what someone can achieve in this country.

Larsen

And you mentioned something, and maybe I took it out of context, but let me attempt to put it in context. You talked about people who don’t know what to do with their freedom, essentially. May that explain why are we in such a hurry to undo our founding principles? I’m hearing you talk about family and the dignity of work, and then I think of studies like Raj Chetty, who studied millions of children and their parents, and not surprisingly, the metrics of success are the very principles and sequences you just named. And they seemingly always have been. Why are we in such a hurry to deconstruct those principles, or delegitimize those principles?

Rowe

Rick, it’s a really great question. And, you know, the truth is, I think that most Americans are not. I think most Americans realize that what brings them happiness, what brings them comfort, what brings them, frankly, economic success starts with your own family, starts with probably a faith commitment, even though that is declining in our country. It starts with, you know, gainful work, that you can be proud of. Most people in our country don’t want to be poor, or don’t want to feel that the government’s gotta take care of them. And so, I think they’re just, there’s some loud voices, frankly, and, you know, when you think about something like “The New York Times” backing the 1619 Project, that’s a pretty loud voice.

But I think most Americans want to know what can they do in their own life to be successful, for their own family. And I think that’s why this country has continued to thrive for centuries, and I think the challenge now for many people is to have the moral courage to stand up and say these things out loud. To say that things like families do matter. That faith matters. That hard work matters. That personal responsibility matters. Now is the time for people who believe in that to actually have the courage to say it out loud, because otherwise, there is a countervailing force that’s trying to extinguish these ideas. And America is not guaranteed. We all have to stand up for these values, otherwise they won’t be there.

Larsen

Would you go so far as to say parents need, through a heightened awareness, to demand a better curriculum, to demand a full and complete history, mistakes and all, but in the name of understanding who we are and what our opportunities are? What is a parent’s role in this? Is this a government problem, a school district problem, or is it within the power of families to demand better?

Rowe

Well, I think if you’re a parent, the first responsibility is starting at home, which is create a great environment for your kids. You know, and the data shows that kids raised in married, two-parent households, as the Raj Chetty study shows, are much more likely to have strong positive outcomes in their life, not just academically, healthcare, social-emotional development, economics. So first and foremost, as my parents did with us, you create a very strong positive environment at home, where you focus on strong character and moral development of your children. Government’s never gonna raise your kids. So that’s the first place to start.

As far as education, certainly then, our schooling system, which has as its intent to build citizens… Sometimes we forget that school has more objectives than just, you know, ELA and math test scores. We’re hoping to develop resilient, self-sufficient citizens, who have an understanding of their country’s history, who are empathetic, and who understand how to do things like delay gratification, have, exercise self-control. With rights come responsibilities. We need a populace that understands that. So, schools should be telling a complete story, warts and all, of the United States. You cannot hide from the fact that America did have slavery, and that there were people who were considered less than human. But on the long march towards freedom, America’s story is exceptional, certainly relative to every other country on the planet.

And so I think parents do need to demand if they start to see that their school systems are embracing curricula which is seeming to tell a very narrow story, or to be doing critical race theory training, where all of the white teachers are being segregated into a group so they have to confess their white privilege, these are very dangerous ideas. And, but, you know, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We have to be the ones, and by we, I mean the collective we, all of us, in our country, if we want to preserve it, that the principles, again, family, faith, hard work, free enterprise, those are the things to be embraced right now, not rejected.

Larsen

[inaudible] read a statement. You use language that is becoming embedded in my thought process, and I would like to help embed it in the thought process of those listening. And I love the evenness of this, and the conclusion you draw. You made the statement, “As the 1619 Project correctly points out, America’s history will forever be scarred by the horrific stories of chattel enslavement. But where are the empowering stories of progress of the millions of ordinary Black Americans who are both descendants of slaves, and who adopted middle-class norms to achieve the American dream despite racial barriers? What the project completely misses are the peculiar dualities of America.” Explain the peculiar dualities of America.

Rowe

Yeah, I mean the peculiar duality of America is that this is the same country where people with a certain skin color were considered only 3/5 of a human being. It’s the same country that has now twice elected someone of that same color, nearly 70 million votes, to be president of the United States, and just a week ago, nominated someone to be Vice president of the United States who is a “person of color.” That’s the duality of our country, that it is marked by a horrific history of slavery, and yet, it is also true that through partnership, resiliency, determination, we have succeeded. The founding documents have embedded within them the tools of self-betterment, the tools of self-renewal.

In the same way the documents, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, all of the amendments have allowed America to continue to become better, the principles that they embody also exist within each one of us. And that’s what we need to tell our kids, that you have within you the tools of self-betterment, the tools of self-renewal. You are going to face discrimination, for a whole bunch of reasons, not just because of race. It’s just, life is hard. But you’re also going to face massive opportunity. That’s the duality. The question is, what are you going to do? Are you going to succumb to the challenges, or are you going to thrive on opportunity? We have to ensure that our school systems, our families, our faith communities are reminding young people of their ability to capitalize on that opportunity.

Larsen

That’s beautifully said. We’re nearing the end of our time, but we would be remiss not to reference what’s going on. We’ve just gone through an interesting election. There are still pieces of it that have yet to take shape. But I will ask you, what do you believe will become of the momentum created by a Trump administration around civics education, or patriotic education? Do you see that at risk in a new administration?

Rowe

Well, it’s a very good question. I mean, I think most people should read the actual executive order that President Trump created to create what’s called the 1776 Commission, because in it, he calls for something called a “patriotic education.” Fundamentally, I’m actually opposed to the idea of the federal government dictating a national curriculum, and the order actually explicitly states that it’s not intending to do that. But I think most people have interpreted it as such, and thus are against it. So I actually think it’s worth reading, because there’s a lot in it that talks about this idea that if we as a country don’t ensure our kids have an understanding of, again, warts and all, the history of the United States, we won’t be able to prosper, because we will start to believe that we need to tinker it, like, let’s get rid of the Electoral College. Let’s increase the Supreme Court membership, just because I don’t, you know, we want more political representation, and, you know, read The Federalist Papers.

And so, there’s, I think, because Trump’s name is associated with that executive order and the 1776 Commission, it’s more likely that a Biden administration will probably jettison it. You know, that said, my hope is that President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris recognize that American values are under assault right now, and that a rich understanding of American history… There are a lot of people competing for the ability to tell a very perverse story, and I’m hoping that they choose a Secretary of Education, that they choose administrative leadership that recognizes that it’s the power of America that actually has the opportunity to heal us and bring us together, not to reject the principles of the country, and continue to divide us.

Larsen

You know, just maybe just a closing thought that I would ask you to respond to. I’m compelled by the notion that, according to National Geographic, somewhere on the planet, a language is lost every two weeks. It’s lost by a lack of use, by a diluted form, and once it’s gone and there’s no memory of how that language functioned, it’s truly gone. And I fear we may be losing some of the language of freedom. I’m interested when you cite The Federalist Papers, and I’m interested in a quote I read in one of your speeches, attributed to Tocqueville, where he said, “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

As maybe a wrap-up statement, I always like to end with hope. Using that statement, should we be hopeful about the solution to this problem?

Rowe

Well, the reason I love that de Tocqueville quote is that I believe it is inherently hopeful. It recognizes that exceptionality is a, it’s a label, it’s… It unto itself, just calling yourself exceptional, is not enough. But having the ability to identify your flaws and be determined and relentless in continuing to repair them and improve opportunity, that’s exceptional. That’s the story we want all young Americans of all races to understand. America has a very complex history, but it’s a beautiful one. Just as we as individuals are complex individuals, and yet we are each beautiful, and created in an image that has great possibility. And I think that’s the enduring idea of America, and the promise that exists within our country and within each individual.

Larsen

Ian, you inspire us at Sutherland Institute. I want to thank you again for taking the time to be with us today, and I want to say to our audience, this program will be available for review on our Facebook page and at sutherlandinstitute.org, and I would encourage you to review this conversation to listen to the concepts that Ian speaks of, and to share them with those who matter in your lives, with family members, with parents in your community. There is a grounding of principle in what Ian talks about that is critical to our next steps when it comes to informing the leadership and virtue of the next generation. So Ian, thank you.

Rowe

Rick, thank you.

Larsen

We will share this far and wide. That concludes our conversation. Thank you again, Ian. Thank you to AEI, and thanks to all of you for joining us.

Rowe

Thank you very much.

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Education trends: To 2021 and beyond

Education trends: To 2021 and beyond

Year 2020 disrupted many things, including education. What is the future of education in 2021 and beyond? Ian Rowe, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, spoke about some of today’s most timely education issues at a Sutherland Institute event. Here are three important takeaways from his remarks.

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