Who Should Be Teaching Our Children about the Constitution?: A Post about the Tea Party Patriots, W. Cleon Skousen, Glenn Beck, and the National Center for Constitutional Studies

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

I wonder how many people are aware that there is a special day that has been set aside by Congress to commemorate the signing of the Constitution each year.

From the Library of Congress:

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is observed each year on September 17 to commemorate the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”

This commemoration had its origin in 1940, when Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing and requesting the President to issue annually a proclamation setting aside the third Sunday in May for the public recognition of all who had attained the status of American citizenship. The designation for this day was “I Am An American Day.”

In 1952 Congress repealed this joint resolution and passed a new law moving the date to September 17 to commemorate “the formation and signing, on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution of the United States” but the day was designated “Citizenship Day” and also retained its original purpose of recognizing all those who had attained the status of American citizenship. This law urged civil and educational authorities of states, counties, cities and towns to make plans for the proper observance of the day and “for the complete instruction of citizens in their responsibilities and opportunities as citizens of the United States and of the State and locality in which they reside.”

In 2004 under Senator Byrd’s urging, Congress changed the designation of this day to “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” and added two new requirements in the commemoration of this Day. The first is that the head of every federal agency provide each employee with educational and training materials concerning the Constitution on September 17th. The second is that each education institution that receives federal funds hold an educational program on the Constitution for students on September 17 of each year.

It appears that few Americans know about this educational requirement. It also appears that few schools have complied with the Congressional mandate to hold an educational program about the Constitution on the designated date.

As a former teacher, I’m not one to argue that we shouldn’t be teaching our students about the Constitution. I think our educational institutions should provide our children with in-depth knowledge of the Constitution of the United States—as well as with a wealth of information about the organization and responsibilities of the three branches of our Federal Government.

A new project sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots aims to pressure public schools to teach students about the Constitution this coming September. That sounds like a good idea on the surface—but here’s what has some legal advocates concerned: The Tea Party Patriots are advocating for the use of their favored “Constitutional” curriculum in the public schools.

Doug Kendall, the Founder and President of the Constitutional Accountability Center, recently penned an article on the subject of the Tea Party Patriots and their favored Constitutional curriculum for the Huffington Post. In his article titled Parents: This Fall, Beware Tea Partiers Dressed Up as James Madison, Kendall wrote:

“When I was growing up, my mom warned me each fall about Halloween candy with a hidden razor blade. As a parent, the thing I’ll be most scared about this fall is the prospect of Tea Partiers coming to my child’s school dressed up like James Madison to ‘teach’ the U.S. Constitution.

“It is undoubtedly the case that all our kids could use a good civics lesson, but these modern day Madisons are peddling snake oil, not real history. Mother Jones reported yesterday that, during Constitution Week in September this year, the so-called ‘Tea Party Patriots’ are planning to pressure school boards across America to allow them into our schools to teach our children about the Constitution using materials from the National Center for Constitutional Studies, an organization founded by a genuinely scary individual named W. Cleon Skousen, a far-right conspiracy theorist with links to the John Birch Society who passed away in 2006.”

Kendall claims the curriculum developed by the National Center for Constitutional Studies uses highly inaccurate source material and issued the following challenge:

“I defy the Tea Party Patriots to find one credible historian willing to support their view of the Constitution’s history. Before the Tea Party gets to go into school and teach our children about the Constitution, they need to find a tenured professor on the history faculty on one of any of the 50 highest-rated universities in the United States who will vouch for the accuracy of their teachings. To qualify to teach America’s children about the Constitution you need to do more than dress up like James Madison.”

In Radical Constitutionalism, an article that appeared in the New York Times, Jeffrey Rosen called W. Cleon Skousen “the constitutional guru of the Tea Party movement.” Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University, says Skousen “argued that the founding fathers rejected collectivist ‘European’ philosophies and instead derived their divinely inspired principles of limited government from fifth-century Anglo-Saxon chieftains, who in turn modeled themselves on the Biblical tribes of ancient Israel” in his 1981 book The 5,000 Year Leap.

Skousen believed our Constitution was “divinely inspired.” Rosen says Skousen “saw limited government as not only an ethnic idea, rooted in the Anglo-Saxons, but also as a Christian one, embodied in the idea of unalienable rights and duties that derive from God, and he insisted that the founders’ ‘religious precepts turned out to be the heart and soul of the entire American political philosophy.’”

Rosen reports that Skousen was dismissed by mainstream conservatives for many years as “a conspiracy-mongering extremist.” In an article that appeared in Mother Jones last week, Stephanie Mencimer wrote: “Skousen’s views on the Constitution are considered well outside the mainstream, and they include ideas drawn from white supremacist dogma and other shady sources. One of his textbooks on constitutional history contained blatantly racist material suggesting that slaves were actually a happy bunch of folks.”

So how did Skousen’s views on our Constitution, which had been considered outside the mainstream by most conservatives for years, become popular with the Tea Party Patriots? Why, Glenn Beck…of course! Beck helped give a boost to Skousen’s book The 5000 Year Leap when he endoresed it. The book then became both a bestseller and a Tea Party favorite.

In December of 2008, Beck recommended the book to his followers as a way to become informed about “socialism and communism and fascism, and the free market, Americanism.”

Beck wrote of Skousen’s book:

“The first thing you could do, please, is get the 5,000 Year Leap. Over my book or anything else, get the 5,000 Year Leap. You can probably find it in the book section of GlennBeck.com, but read that. It is the principle. It is so easy to read. It’s the book Ronald Reagan wanted taught in high schools and Ted Kennedy stopped it from happening. That should tell you all you need to know. It is so easy to understand. When you read these principles, your mouth will fall open. You’ll read it and you’ll be – the scales will fall off your eyes on who we are. Please, number one thing: Inform yourself about who we are and what the other systems are all about. 5,000 Year Leap is the first part of that. Because it will help you understand American free enterprise. You’ll be able to defend it. You’ll be able to know what makes it possible for 6% of humanity living under our free economy to produce 1/2 of the Earth’s developed wealth every single year. That’s staggering! What is it? It’s the virtues and the principles that our founders believed in, that took us and pushed us and made us – allowed us to take a 5,000 year leap from the dark into the sunshine. We should know why collectivism is wrong. We should know why federal supervision is going to hold our standard of living down. It will reduce our productivity, just as it has in every single country where it has ever been tried. We should know why communist leaders of the past considered socialism the high road to communism. We should know the words of the old communist leaders that said ‘We don’t need to fight a war. We can push them into socialism and once we have them into socialism, communism is next.’ We should see and read the actual words of the early 20th century American Progressives and see the roots.”

Who wouldn’t trust the Constitutional views of a man who wrote a book that Glenn Beck thinks is the most important book for Americans to read??? Who wouldn’t want their children learning about our Constitution from educational materials provided by an organization founded by that same individual?

If, on the other hand, you’re as concerned about Tea Party Patriots pressuring your local school board to adopt the curriculum materials developed by the National Center for Constitutional Studies to teach your children about the Constitution as Doug Kendall is, you might want to check with your local school system to see what plans it may have for Constitution Day on September 17th.

SOURCES

The Tea Party Wants to Teach Your Kids About the Constitution (Mother Jones)

Legal Advocates Slam Tea Party Constitution Classes (Mother Jones)

Meet the man who changed Glenn Beck’s life:Cleon Skousen was a right-wing crank whom even conservatives despised. Then Beck discovered him (Salon)

Parents: This Fall, Beware Tea Partiers Dressed Up as James Madison (Huffington Post)

Radical Constitutionalism (New York Times)

Glenn Beck: Are you a Sept. 12th person? (Glenn Beck)

Wearing Dunce Cap, Tea Party Tries To Indoctrinate Children With Bad Constitutional History (Constitutional Accountability Center)

National Center for Constitutional Studies

73 thoughts on “Who Should Be Teaching Our Children about the Constitution?: A Post about the Tea Party Patriots, W. Cleon Skousen, Glenn Beck, and the National Center for Constitutional Studies

  1. I will quote George Orwell again: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

  2. Elaine
    Why is it that all you are capable of is slinging mud?
    Where is your intellectual capacity for honest conversation?
    Your last statement is a great example.
    By it, you suggest that I am not telling the truth, yet you do not give ONE example of any deceit or lies that I have stated.

    This is the “tragic flaw” of all the liberals/progressives/Democrats… they know they lose when it comes to the truth of the issues so they attack the messenger or they spin deceit with misquotes and out of context statements, or out and out lies.

    They do this, of course to divert attention from the truth of the issues they lose on. The truly sinister, unethical part is that they do this to convince people to believe their lies… especially using language that invokes fear and anger against their target.

    The truly sad part is that so many people fall victim to these sick tactics. These are the same tactics used in Germany and adopted by Obama’s good friend Saul Alinsky in his book. George Orwell’s quote is so true, as Elaine’s statements illustrate.

    “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

    Truly learn about the Founding Fathers and their writings that illustrate their ideas that created our immortal Constitution. Read the 5000 year Leap for yourself and find the actual writings of the Founders that are contained in the book… follow the deception of the spinmeisters and remain ignorant and controlled if you must.

  3. stephenwv,

    “…follow the deception of the spinmeisters and remain ignorant and controlled if you must.”

    I’ll leave that job to you. I’d say that you’re the expert at attacking the messenger. When you don’t like what someone says, you accuse the messenger of being deceitful, being a mudslinger, being ignorant.

  4. The truth is NOT spinning.
    When you have not read the book you are ignorant of what is contained in it. That is true. That is not spin. That is not attacking a messenger that purports to know what the book contains without reading it.

    There is a BIG difference in not liking what someone says, and being outraged by lies, false claims, misrepresentations, and taking things out of context for the purpose for deceiving people. You and others have done all these things as I have pointed out many specific instances which occur in virtually EVERY posting you have made. That is not spin… that is the truth.

    You attempt to get people to not read the book because you fear the truth with in its pages.
    When you attempt to avoid the issues (such as the fact that The 5000 Year Leap is the only compilation of our Founders’ writings that give insight and meaning to what went into their creation of the Constitution)…
    when you avoid the issues and attempt to denigrate the book by “throwing mud” at the author, (calling him names, bringing up quotes about other books he has written or philosophies he believes in, etc. ) that have NOTHING to do with the content of the book, I will call you on it. Because you ARE being deceitful. You ARE slinging mud. Facts. Truth.

    You do not like that I see your tactics and you attempt to accuse me of doing that which YOU do. Your kind do deceive MANY people. These tactics are what Saul Alinsky teaches in his book to control the masses. Many of your kind have learned to do it very well. I won’t let you get away with it. The truth will win out despite your deceit.

    AGAIN: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

  5. stephenwv,

    It appears you see deceit where there is none.

    What names did I call the author of that book?

    How did I attempt to get people “to not read” the book?

  6. Elaine,
    To begin with you have accused me of being deceitful in a recent post to which I asked you to point out where I have done that. YOU have not responded to that challenge AT ALL.

    Now you turn it around and expect ME to do that which you are either unwilling g to do. ACTUALLY you are UNABLE to do it as I have NOT been deceitful. I have been truthful.

    I challenge you again to prove your statement.

    Fortunately it is a simple task to point out the deception you present referring to some of the many you have posted.

    “Elaine M.
    April 19, 2012 at 10:41 am
    All Patriots ‘Know’ That Moses Wrote the Constitution”

    Not only is that statement a TOTAL lying deception, but the dribble
    that follows in the rest of the copy and paste, is a total politically slanted biased spin which I already responded to by pointing out your deception in my post:
    “stephenwv
    April 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm”

    “Elaine M.
    April 17, 2012 at 9:52 am
    Divine Constitutional Abomination
    By Caroline Fredrickson
    Excerpt:
    Recent news reports have revealed that the nation’s largest Tea Party umbrella group is seeking to infiltrate our public schools with the radical theory that the Constitution is divinely inspired.”

    Total deception as I already pointed out in my Response:
    “stephenwv
    April 17, 2012 at 11:41 am
    As I posted earlier and Elaine refuses to realize, instead continuing to spread deceitful spin re coping and repasting her previous information … as I posted earlier IT IS THE FOUNDING FATHERS OWN WRITINGS THAT SUGGESTED THAT THE CONSTITUTION IS DIVINELY INSPIRED.”

    Now skipping to the top, your original copy and paste:
    “the National Center for Constitutional Studies, an organization founded by a genuinely scary individual named W. Cleon Skousen, a far-right conspiracy theorist with links to the John Birch Society who passed away in 2006.
    Kendall claims the curriculum developed by the National Center for Constitutional Studies uses highly inaccurate source material”

    If “a genuinely scary individual named W. Cleon Skousen, a far-right conspiracy theorist with links to the John Birch Society who passed away in 2006.” is not name calling and mud slinging… WHAT IS?

    Your other copy and pastes contain similar examples. Do not attempt to say that that you did not say it they did… by coping and pasting … YOU are responsible for saying it… as it is YOU that presented it.

    Just as when I quote George Orwell by posting it it is ME… it is my responsibility… as if I were saying it… I take the responsibility:

    “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
    George Orwell (and stephenwv by the posting there of).

    If you do not agree with or want what you post to be attributed to you… then don’t post it.

  7. Sorry, I forgot to comment on:
    “Kendall claims the curriculum developed by the National Center for Constitutional Studies uses highly inaccurate source material”

    If you read the book you will see the source material used, by the numerous quoting of that sours material which is THE ORIGINAL WRITINGS OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS!!!

    If calling their historical original writings “highly inaccurate source material” is not deception (or more accurately an out and out lie) can ANYTHING be called deception?

    And of course he gives NO examples… because the book The 5000 Year Leap is about the TRUTH which they can only attempt to disparage with lies and deception. The only way their lies hold up is for you to not read the book to find out the truth for yourself. Be led by their deception or think for yourself. Just like the proverbial horse… You can lead a person to the book but you can’t make him read.

  8. Elaine.
    As far as asking me “How did I attempt to get people “to not read” the book?”
    Are you kidding me???
    Every lie and deception in the posts you present do that in spades. You don’t purport that these are book reviews that are neutral or actually posted with the intent to get people to read the book??? Be serious.

    It is time for you to admit that you need to read the book to see for yourself if I am the lier and deceiver or if all those that you have been listening to and copy and pasting are the liars and deceivers.

    I have pointed out at every turn that they are the liars and deceivers by stating the truth. NO ONE has or can show that what I have stated is wrong… because the truth is the truth.

    I do not need to deceive. The truth is on my side. I refuse to stoop to the level of the liberals/progressives/Democtats that chose deceit over the truth of the issues. Because they know they lose on the truth of the issues.

  9. “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” – Patrick Henry

    “The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence.” – Noah Webster

    On March 27, 1854, the U.S. Congress released a report stating, “Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, not any one sect. . . . In this age, there can be no substitute for Christianity. . . . That was the religion of the founders of the republic and they expect it to remain the religion of their descendants.”

  10. Before anyone invests energy in promoting or defending the credibility of Skousen and his book “The 5,000 Year Leap,” they should do themselves a favor and look up the orginal sources of the various quotes, anecdotes, and claims in the book. See for yourself if any of them have been taken out of context, distorted, misrepresented, or even falsified.

    Here’s one excerpt from the book that is very instructive:

    [Begin excerpt]

    Redistribution of the Wealth Unconstitutional

    In earlier years the American courts held that the expropriating of property to transfer to other citizens was unlawful, being completely outside the constitutional power delegated to the government. It was not until after 1936 (the Butler case) that the Supreme Court began arbitrarily distorting the meaning of the “general welfare” clause to permit the distribution of federal bounties as a demonstration of “concern” for the poor and the needy. Before that time, this practice was prohibited. The Supreme Court had declared:

    “No man would become a member of a community in which he could not enjoy the fruits of his honest labor and industry. The preservation of property, then, is a primary object of the social compact…The legislature, therefore, had no authority to make an act divesting one citizen of his freehold, and vesting it in another, without a just compensation. It is inconsistent with the principles of reason, justice, and moral rectitude; it is incompatible with the comfort, peace and happiness of mankind; it is contrary to the principles of social alliance in every free government; and lastly, IT IS CONTRARY TO THE LETTER AND SPIRIT OF THE CONSTITUTION.” (2 Dall 304, 310 [Pa. 1795]; emphasis added)

    Caring for the Poor Without Violating Property Rights

    But, of course, the nagging question still remains. If it corrupts a society for the government to take care of the poor by violating the principle of property rights, who will take care of the poor? The answer of those who built America seems to be: “Anybody BUT the federal government.”

    [End excerpt]

    I think it is pretty clear by the context that in this passage, Skousen was claiming the following:

    A. The quote (“No man would become…” etc.) is from a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

    B. The U.S. Supreme Court case concerned the issue of redistribution of wealth to help the poor and needy.

    C. In that decision, the Supreme Court declared that under the U.S. Constitution, redistributing wealth or income to help the needy is unconstitutional.

    D. Specifically, the passage he quotes (“No man would become…” etc.) is the Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

    But if you look up the actual case, you will learn the following:

    A. The quote is NOT from a U.S. Supreme Court decision. It is instead from a U.S. Circuit Court decision that was never appealed to the Supreme Court. As such, it represents only the ruling of 1 of the 7 members of the Supreme Court.

    B. The case had nothing whatsoever to do with issues of redistribution of wealth to help the poor and needy or any kind of welfare program. In fact, it dealt only with issues of eminent domain and competing claims over land in Pennsylvania, involving two groups of settlers who each thought they had valid deeds to the land in dispute.

    C. Neither the Supreme Court (who didn’t even hear the case) nor the judge who actually presided over it made any rulings for or against redistributive policies to help the needy. Skousen convieniently ignored the fact taht elsewhere in the opinion the judge makes it clear that it is acceptible under the Constitution to take personal property from one person to aid other people in need.

    D. The section of the decision quoted by Skousen doesn’t even refer to the U.S. Constitution. The judge is actually interpreting and applying the Pennsylvania constition to determine whether the Pennsylvania legislature’s attempt to resolve the land title disputes was valid under that state’s constitution. And Skousen HAD to know that he was blatantly misrepresenting this passage from the opinion, because he removed the second half of the sentence that made it clear that the judge was referring to the Pennsylvania constitution. Here is the complete passage from teh judge’s opinion, including the phrase that Skousen deleted, with the deleted language shown in all capital letters:

    “No man would become a member of a community in which he could not enjoy the fruits of his honest labor and industry. The preservation of property, then, is a primary object of the social compact, AND, BY THE LATE CONSTITUTION OF PENNSYLVANIA, WAS MADE A FUNDAMENTAL LAW. The legislature, therefore, had no authority to make an act divesting one citizen of his freehold, and vesting it in another, without a just compensation. It is inconsistent with the principles of reason, justice, and moral rectitude; it is incompatible with the comfort, peace and happiness of mankind; it is contrary to the principles of social alliance in every free government; and lastly, it is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.”

    Skousen had a law degree, so he had to know he was misrepresenting this decision by presenting it as a U.S. Supreme Court decision dealing with welfare and income redistribution, and he certainly had to know that the quoted passage dealt with the Pennsylvania constitution rather than the U.S. constitution. And by deliberately editing the quote to make it appear the judge was talking about the U.S. Constution, he clearly falsified his supposed evidence.

    That is just one example of the sloppy, misleading, and sometimes dishonest way Skousen treated his source material. One more quick example: He presents a quote from Samuel Adams as evidence for the claim that the writers of the U.S. Constitution intended to make income redistribution unconstitutional. However, if you look up the source of the quote you will discover Adams had written it in 1768, long before the Constitution was written and even 7 years before the start of the Revolution. Only two explanations are possible: either Skousen was an incredibly sloppy and incompetent historian or he deliberately misrepresented Adams’ quote.

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