FARGO — Do we have a Donald J. Trump Academy in Fargo?
Or maybe it could be called a MAGA charter school.
Time will tell, but the red flags (or are they ceilings?) have already waved.
The Capstone Classical Academy, as The Forum reported on Friday, will begin classes this fall. It will be located in southwest Fargo. It all started with what the CS Hagen story describes as “the brainchild of business-minded people and educators.”
It will be a private Christian school. Nothing unusual there.
It is affiliated with Hillsdale College in Michigan.
And this is where the questions begin.
Hillsdale is a small private school (1,500 enrolments) extremely conservative and linked to former President Trump. He is well known in conservative circles for his growing influence in Republican politics (his graduates are increasingly named top staffers of key GOP politicians, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem) and the fact that he refuses federal aid for not being held to the standards of the United States Department of Education.
Former Trump Education Secretary (and opponent of public education) Betsy DeVos is a financial supporter of Hillsdale and has given speeches on campus.
School president Larry Arnn endorsed Trump in 2016 and was reportedly on the shortlist of candidates to become Trump’s education secretary before DeVos got the job.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Trump named Arnn chairman of his 1776 advisory commission, “which Trump created during the campaign to combat ‘leftist indoctrination in our schools.'” An official at the Hillsdale satellite campus in Washington, D.C. , was appointed executive director of the commission.”
Hillsdale was at one time a main sponsor of conservative Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and continues to support right-wing host Mark Levin, who has a close relationship with the college.
In December 2021, the Daily Kos accused Hillsdale of “COVID denial and peddling misinformation about the pandemic and its variants”. Hillsdale is said to be creating an Academy for Science and Freedom and one of its leaders will be Dr. Scott Atlas, whom Trump has named one of his top COVID advisers. Despite being a radiologist with no experience in epidemiology, Atlas pushed the concept of “herd immunity” early in the pandemic.
In May 2021, according to the New Republic, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran gave a speech saying the school’s primary purpose was not to educate or train students for employment. , but that they should rather see it as inculcating moral values.
Corcoran said that when it comes to America’s fiercest ideological battles, “the war will be won in education.”
“And finally,” New Republic reported, “while Republican education policies had played a vital role in advancing ‘school choice,'” (Corcoran said), the next step was to bring so many families to flee public schools that no future administration would be able to repair the damage.”
To that end, Hillsdale has reportedly launched a network of affiliated “classical academies.” There are more than two dozen in at least 11 states. The college serves as a consultant, providing local organizers with curriculum and teacher training.
Hillsdale has come under intense scrutiny for what critics say is a dismal record on LGBTQ and racial discrimination. Because Hillsdale refuses federal money and will not allow its student to use federal loans or scholarships, The New York Times reported, “the college is not following Title IX guidelines on gender discrimination and treatment sexual assault cases and he refused to engage in the otherwise required reports on student race and ethnicity, let alone developing an affirmative action plan.
Capstone Classical Academy claims it is the first affiliated private K-12 school in the Hillsdale system.
It is not yet known whether red caps are part of school uniforms.