One of the nation’s largest Tea Party umbrella groups is pushing a curriculum to teach public school kids about the Constitution that American Constitution Society Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson says is so outside the mainstream that even the conservative Federalist Society would likely object to its use.
The curriculum, which members of the Tea Party Patriots are bringing into schools through an “adopt a school” program during Constitution Week in September, was developed by the National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS), founded by the late Cleon Skousen. Skousen promoted the idea that the Constitution is a divine document that may have biblical roots, and authored Glenn Beck’s favorite book on the Constitution, The 5,000 Year Leap, reports Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones.
The American Constitution Society has been participating in Constitution Week for years, by sending volunteers to classrooms with lesson plans that feature the Sixth Amendment right to an attorney, students’ free expression and freedom of religion rights under the First Amendment, and the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.
NCCS’s lesson plans are likely to have a very different focus, if an NCCS seminar Mencimer attended last year is any indication. She explains:
Among other things, NCCS uses materials written by Skousen suggesting that Anglo-Saxons are descended from a lost tribe of Israel; Skousen claimed this meant the Constitution may have been inspired by God, who intended for America to be a Christian nation. The very same bogus history has been perpetuated by the white supremacist movement.
Very little of the eight-hour lesson I sat through included a discussion of how the Constitution affects average people, or how it's been changed over time to reflect the nation's progress—such as the amendments giving women the right to vote, ending slavery, and lowering the voting age.
Mencimer notes that few people are aware of the federal mandate to teach about the Constitution, and that “few schools have apparently complied with the mandate.”
But ACS’s Fredrickson warns schools against adopting any program that presents a skewed understanding of the document.
"Any tea party organization that steps into the classroom has got to make sure they are actually educating students and not misleading them," she told Mother Jones.
To meet the growing need for Constitution Week instruction, ACS is expanding its own Constitution in the Classroom program. To learn more or sign up, click here.