Under the umbrella title of Education to End Hate, the initiative is designed both to improve the way schools teach children about discrimination and to help educate school staff themselves to combat it.
Announcing the initiative on Monday, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, Tony Thurmond, specifically called out the president.
“We do not need any more evidence that our country is facing two pandemics: coronavirus and hate,” he said in a department press release. “It feels like every day we are seeing heartbreaking examples: more anti-Semitic behaviour, bullying of Asian American students because of our president’s rhetoric, Islamophobia, discrimination of our LGBTQ neighbours, and violence directed at people of colour.
“It’s time to double down on our efforts to combat all forms of hate, bias, and bigotry. By digging deeper into the complexities of our diverse and difficult histories — not denying or ignoring them — I believe education can provide the pathway to healing, understanding, and racial and social justice.”
The announcement of the plan, which includes grants for anti-bias training and virtual classroom sessions on discrimination, comes as Mr Trump and his allies increasingly focus on the school curriculum as a front in the culture war.
In recent weeks, the president has declared that schools should teach a “patriotic” curriculum to fight back against forces that supposedly instruct children to “hate” America — specifically the 1619 Project, a history of slavery that has been adapted from its original presentation in the New York Times into a set of classroom tools.
Mr Trump has harnessed conservative umbrage at the 1619 Project by announcing what he calls the “1776 Commission” to “promote patriotic education”.
The plan is being derisively referred to by critics as the “Trump youth”, many pointing out that banning a teaching tool that focuses on slavery and replacing it with something supposedly “patriotic” carries an unedifying whiff of the education strategies used by nationalist governments.
However, many on the right reject the criticism. The mainstream conservative magazine National Review, many of whose writers have furiously opposed the president, has come out in favour of the administration’s nascent plan, writing in an editorial that children must be protected from “fact-challenged efforts to supplant the story of America, its ideals, and its exceptional history with critical-race and gender theory and leftist agitprop”.
“America’s proud history is worth defending,” the magazine insists.
To the extent it has been detailed, the 1776 Commission has been received rapturously by Mr Trump’s supporters. At an event in Dayton, Ohio yesterday, Mr Trump claimed that the left “indoctrinate your children with poisonous anti-American lies. They’re doing that, we’re stopping them.
“To combat the toxic left-wing propaganda in our schools, I announced last week that we are launching a pro-American lesson plan for students called the 1776 Commission. We will teach our children the truth about America, that we are the most exceptional nation on the face of the Earth, and we are getting better and better all the time.
“No party can lead America that will not teach our children to love America.”