America’s students will be learning about the U.S. Constitution this coming school year with help from a decidedly conservative Idaho publishing house, if a Tea Party group gets its way.
The Tea Party Patriots, Georgia-based but claiming 1,000 chapters nationally, are instructing members to remind teachers that a 2004 federal law requires public schools to teach Constitution lessons the week of Sept. 17, commemorating the day the document was signed. And they’d like the teachers to use material from the Malta, Idaho-based National Center for Constitutional Studies, which promotes the Constitution as a divinely-inspired document.
The center’s founder, W. Cleon Skousen, once called Jamestown’s original settlers communists, wrote end-of-days prophecy, and suggested Russians stole Sputnik from the United States. In 1987, one of his books was criticized for suggesting American slave children were freer than white non-slaves.
Interest in Skousen, a former FBI employee and Salt Lake City police chief who died in 2006 in Utah, soared in Tea Party circles after praise from talk show host Glenn Beck. Not surprisingly, groups battling the Tea Party—and Beck—warn that Skousen’s center shouldn’t be teaching kids about American history.
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“It’s indoctrination, not education,” said Doug Kendall, director of the Constitutional Accountability Center in Washington, D.C. “They’re so far from the mainstream of constitutional thought that they are completely indefensible.”
Though the National Center for Constitutional Studies is best known for its promotion of Skousen’s work, including “The 5,000 Year Leap,” a 1981 book that suggests Biblical inspiration for the Constitution, those materials aren’t included in the packet being touted by the Tea Party Patriots.