Tea Party Patriots has launched a new program to “pressure public schools” to teach its version of American history and the Constitution across the country. The “Adopt a School Action Plan” is designed to take advantage of a requirement that public schools teach about the Constitution — for the purpose of promoting co-called Christian American History. The “plan” includes form letters which Tea Partiers are asked fill in and send on the prescribed dates. The three letters include an initial letter and follow-up letter to school board members and superintendents, as well as a letter to local media.
In addition to informing officials and the media about the legal requirement that public schools teach about the Constitution during Constitution Week each year, the letters demand to know what curricula materials will be used at each grade level. More than half of each letter to school officials is a promotion of a curriculum on the Constitution developed by Cleon Skousen’s National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS). The letters even include an offer to pay for the materials if the school cannot afford them. You can read the letters for yourself here.
Skousen, who might be called the cold war era’s David Barton, is author of The 5000 Thousand Year Leap. Given renewed popularity by Glenn Beck over the last year or so, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz characterizes it as “a treatise that assembles selective quotations and groundless assertions to claim that the US Constitution is rooted not in the Enlightenment but in the Bible.”
NCCS has sought to promote their materials through public institutions before and it didn’t end well. In 1987, during the bicentennial of the Constitution, California’s Bicentennial Commission approved the promotion of another of Skousen’s books, The Making of America, apparently without actually reading it. According to the New York Times (about an essay in the book):
Referring to the standard of living on plantations, the essay said, “If the pickaninnies ran naked it was generally from choice, and when the white boys had to put on shoes and go away to school they were likely to envy the freedom of their colored playmates.”
Other sections present a picture of the white slave owner as victimized by malingering blacks who shirked their duties and left their owners with a costly burden of supporting them and their numerous offspring, concluding that “slave owners were the worst victims of the system.”
The “textbook” and a seminar based upon it are still available for sale on NCCS website (the book currently available may be an expurgated version but the original edition is available on Amazon.)
These self-styled watchdogs of education (with a pretty clear anti-education agenda) are capitalizing on severe budget constraints in every state. Their aggressive campaign to make available seemingly innocuous materials so schools can comply with requirements to teach the Constitution might well mean that it won’t only be Christian school and homeschool kids who get theology as history.