In a recent article published by the History News Network, Professor Threlkeld consider the “long history” in the United States of a “nationalist approach to a K-12 social studies curriculum.”

In order to set the Hillsdale College 1776 curriculum into historical context, she compares it to Progressive-era arguments in the 1890s in favor of establishing civics and history education in public schools. She observes that “the parallels between Progressive-era arguments for civics and history education and the Hillsdale Curriculum are striking,” including an emphasis on nurturing patriotism and national pride.

However, Threlkeld concludes, “while both the architects of the 1776 Curriculum and Progressive reformers of the 1890s championed curricula that would foster patriotism and nationalism, the similarity ends there. The Hillsdale Curriculum critiques the Progressive Era as an unwarranted expansion of government and characterizes its leaders as socialist bureaucrats who rejected America’s ‘true’ principles of limited government, free-market capitalism, and individual rights. But unlike Hillsdale, those earlier reformers believed public schools could be a force for good—an ‘embryonic community,’ in John Dewey’s words, where students would internalize the ‘spirit of service’ and learn the ‘instruments of effective self-direction.’ Progressives’ impact echoes ironically in the label school-choice advocates now use to denounce public schools: ‘government schools.’”

August 21, 2023