The far right's national plan for schools: Plant charters, defund public education - 2022-03-17
In recent years, Hillsdale College, a small private Christian school in Michigan, has quietly become a driving force in America's ongoing fights around education. A "feeder school" for the Trump administration, Hillsdale led President Trump's controversial 1776 Commission and serves as a testing ground for the right's most ambitious ideas: For instance, that diversity erodes national unity, that Vladimir Putin is a populist hero and that conservatives should lure so many children out of public schools that the entire system collapses.
Hillsdale has inconspicuously been building a network of "classical education" charter schools, which use public tax dollars to teach that the U.S. was founded on "Judeo-Christian" principles and that progressivism is fundamentally anti-American. In January, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced plans to partner with Hillsdale to launch as many as 50 such schools, which public education advocates fear could be a tipping point in the privatization battle.
In this three-part series, Salon looks at Hillsdale's multifaceted and far-reaching role in shaping and disseminating the ideas and strategies that power the right. In our first installment, we met Hillsdale president Larry Arnn, a Winston Churchill scholar who led Trump's short-lived 1776 Commission and has used his connections to right-wing thought leaders like Ginni Thomas and Betsy DeVos to turn his school into a political powerhouse. In the second installment, we explored the curriculum taught at Hillsdale and widely promoted through its national network of charter schools, which is informed by a deeply conservative understanding of American history, an "originalist" reading of the U.S. Constitution and an explicit desire to undo progressive educational reforms of the last 100 years.