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Founding Principles Act Exposed

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The Founding Principles Act was adopted by ALEC's Education Task Force at its Spring Task Force Meeting on April 30, 2010, approved by the ALEC Board of Directors on June 3, 2010. ALEC has attempted to distance itself from this piece of legislation after the launch of ALECexposed.org in 2011, but it has done nothing to get it repealed in the states where it previously pushed for it to be made into law.

CMD's Bill Summary

This model legislation would require the teaching of a semester-long course on the "philosophical understandings" of America's founders, as incorporated in the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. There are, in fact, many scholarly differences of opinion about what weight to accord writings of individuals involved in the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. For example, a controversial Bush Administration attorney embraced what he called a "Hamiltonian" view of virtually unlimited presidential power as a rationale for presidential violation of laws barring torture and warrantless wiretapping. However, Hamilton's views of king-like presidential power were not shared by other leading founding fathers or by the citizens in the states that ratified the Constitution and who insisted upon the addition of an explicit Bill of Rights to guard against claims of virtually unlimited governmental power to search and seize people and compel them to be witnesses against themselves. It is unclear who would create the curriculum proposed by ALEC and whether that curriculum would fairly present the "philosophical" understandings of the framers of the Constitution. For example, it is unclear whether many of the people in the current day and age who use rhetoric about "federalism," one of the words reference by ALEC, as a proxy for "state's rights" have any understandings that the U.S. Constitution was written in reaction to the failures of a weak central government that was created in the Articles of Confederation, the first form of government adopted nationally by the newly freed colonies. It is indeed very important for young Americans to understand our nation's history. It is also important that the curriculum not become a conduit for corporate propaganda formulated to promote ALEC's agenda.

ALEC Bill Text

Summary

The Founding Principles Act would require during the high school years the teaching of a semester-long course on the philosophical understandings and the founders’ principles, which are the foundation of our form of government for a free people, as incorporated in the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Federalist Papers.


Legislation

Section 1. {Title}

Founding Principles Act.

Section 2. {Findings}

The legislature finds and declares:

Whereas, the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787 were seminal events in the history of the United States, the Declaration of Independence providing the philosophical foundation on which the nation rests, and the Constitution of the United States providing its structure of government; and

Whereas, the Federalist Papers embody the most eloquent and forceful argument made in support of the adoption of our republican form of government; and

Whereas, these documents, along with the writings of the Founders, stand as the foundation of our form of democracy, providing at the same time the touchstone of our national identity and the vehicle for orderly growth and change; and

Whereas, these Founding Documents established a set of principles, known as the Founders’ Principles, which are the heart and soul of a government for a free society; and

Whereas, these principles enabled a group of 13 colonies to become the greatest and most powerful nation on earth in a relatively short period of time; and

Whereas, most Americans do not know about nor understand the timely and timeless importance of these principles to our form of government and to their current lives; and

Whereas, the survival of the republic requires that our nation’s children, the future guardians of its heritage and participants in its governance, have a clear understanding of these principles and the importance of their preservation.

Now therefore, the State enacts the following:

Section 3. {Main provisions}

(A) Local boards of education shall require during the high school years the teaching of a semester course on:

(1) the philosophical foundations of our form of government, and
(2) the principles underlying the Declaration of Independence , the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the writings of the Founders, which are the principles of government for a free people and are known as the” Founders’ Principles.

(B) Local boards of education shall include among the requirements for graduation from high school a passing grade in a semester course on the principles underlying the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Federalist Papers.

(C) The State Board of Education shall require that any curriculum-based tests administrated statewide beginning with [insert appropriate dates] academic year include questions related to the principles underlying the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the most important arguments of the Federalist Papers.

(D) The State Department of Public Instruction [or other appropriate department] and the local boards of education, as appropriate, shall provide curriculum content for the semester course and teacher training to ensure that the intent and provisions of this subsection are carried out.

(E) The Department of Public Instruction [or other appropriate department] shall submit a biennial report to the General Assembly covering:

(1) the implementation of this subsection; and
(2) the statewide student results from the State curriculum-based tests administered in accordance with subdivision 3 of this subsection.

Section 4. {Severability clause}

Section 5. {Repealer clause}

Section 6. {Effective date}


Adopted by the Education Task Force at its Spring Task Force Meeting on April 30, 2010.

Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors on June 3, 2010.