Should we Teach True History or Revised History in our Nation’s Schools?
As some of you are aware, in addition to my work with NCCS, I am also the founder of one of Arizona’s first charter high schools nearly twenty years ago. A charter school is a public school supported by public state funds and, as such, is obligated to follow state laws in the operation of the school. As the teacher of the state-required class on the U. S. Government, I have been using NCCS’s The 5000 Year Leap as part of our curriculum. As many of you know, this book is the best book we know of which tells, in the Founder’s own words, the source of their great ideas and principles.
After nineteen years, a challenge comes demanding that we stop using this book
In December, 2013, an organization called American United for the Separation of Church and State sent a complaint to our school and to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, our sponsoring organization, containing the following:
“We have received a complaint regarding Heritage Academy’s use of a book entitled ‘The 5000 Year Leap,’ by W. Cleon Skousen, in its History curriculum. Heritage requires senior students to read the book, which argues that the United States was founded and should be governed based upon religious teachings and laws. Example chapter titles include: “Without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained”; “All things were created by God, therefore upon him all mankind are equally dependent, and to him they are equally responsible”; “To protect human rights, God has revealed a code of divine law”; and “The United States has a manifest destiny to eventually become a glorious example of God’s law under a restored Constitution that will inspire the entire human race.” See National Center for Constitutional Studies, The 5000 Year Leap – A Miracle that Changed the World, at http://www.nccs.net/products/books/the-5000-year-leap-a-miracle-that-changed-the-world.php (last visited Nov. 21, 2013). Moreover, the book’s text extensively quotes the Bible as truth. The endorsement and promotion of religious views and ideologies in a public-school classroom violates both the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article XI, § 7 of the Arizona Constitution. We therefore ask that you remove this book from the curriculum.”
The complainant then launches into what appears to be a cookie-cutter description of court cases which prohibit teaching creationism alongside evolution in public schools, Bible reading and prayers in public schools, distributing Bible pamphlets and requiring Bible-owning teachers to keep it out of sight of students, and refraining from reading the Bible silently during school hours—all apparently implying that we do such activities at our school, which we do not. The complainant continues:
“The Arizona Constitution contains a prohibition on religious instruction in the public schools that is stronger even than that of the federal Establishment Clause. Article XI, Section 7 of the Arizona Constitution provides, in relevant part, that “[n]o sectarian instruction shall be imparted in any school or State educational institution that may be established under this Constitution. The use of The 5000 Year Leap in an Arizona public school cannot stand under the plain language of the Arizona Constitution.
“For these reasons, we ask you to remove The 5000 Year Leap from Heritage Academy’s curriculum.” (Italics added)
My reply to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools
All charter schools are required to answer any complaint filed with the State Board. My response included the following:
In reply to the complaint filed with you, dated December 4, 2013, by the “Americans United” organization, I submit the following.
Our Government class, which is required of all seniors, conforms to the following State of Arizona requirements/laws/declarations:
From the Constitution of the State of Arizona: Preamble:
“We, the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution.”
Article 2, Section 1: “A frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is essential to the security of individual rights and the perpetuity of free government.”
Article 11, Section 7: “No sectarian instruction shall be imparted in any school or state educational institution that may be established under this Constitution, and no religious or political test or qualification shall ever be required as a condition of admission into any public educational institution of the state, as teacher, student, or pupil; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be so construed as to justify practices or conduct inconsistent with the good order, peace, morality, or safety of the state, or with the rights of others.
From the Arizona Revised Statutes:
ARS 15-710 “Instruction in state and federal constitutions, American institutions and history of Arizona
All schools shall give instruction in the essentials, sources and history of the Constitutions of the United States….”
ARS 15-717 15-717 “American history and heritage
A teacher or administrator in any school in this state may read or post in any school building copies or excerpts of the following materials:
- The national motto.
- The national anthem.
- The pledge of allegiance.
- The preamble to the constitution of this state.
- The declaration of independence.
- The Mayflower compact.
- Writings, speeches, documents and proclamations of the founding fathers and the presidents of the United States.
- Published decisions of the United States Supreme Court.
- Acts of the United States Congress.”
ARS15-508 “Dismissal for failure to comply with certain laws
Wilful neglect or failure on the part of a school superintendent, principal, teacher or other officer of a school to observe and carry out the requirements of section…15-710 is sufficient cause for dismissal or removal of such person from his position, and the superintendent of public instruction shall make necessary arrangements for carrying out the provisions of this section.”
Arizona State Board of Education rule for high school graduation:
R7-2-302.02 (1) (b) (iii). One-half credit of American government, including Arizona government;
The 5000 Year Leap is a book used in our class on Government and the Constitution which identifies twenty-eight principles or concepts that are found in or reflected in the writings of America’s Founders and which form the basis of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Numerous quotations from America’s Founders are included in the book to show the source of their ideas.
The complainant correctly cited three of the twenty-eight chapter titles as having to do with the moral and religious basis for a free society, which is reflected in numerous quotes of the Founders contained in the book. The complainant incorrectly gave another chapter title as “The United States has a manifest destiny to eventually become a glorious example of God’s Law under a restored Constitution that will inspire the entire human race”, seemingly to bolster the allegation that we are inappropriately teaching religion. The correct title of the chapter in the book reads, “The United States has a Manifest Destiny to be an example and a Blessing to the Entire Human Race.” The Founders quotes in this chapter reflect this concept.
Any honest student/teacher of American History must acknowledge the influence of religion in the history of the American nation. Even some organizations which reject and attempt to minimize any religious influence in society today admit that one cannot properly teach the history of America without teaching the influence of religion.
The complainant has listed a number of court cases relative to the teaching of religion, implying that Heritage Academy is participating in such prohibited activities. Please know that we intend to follow the law which allows and even requires the proper teaching of history and also has certain prohibitions. These legal requirements are reflected in our policies, which include:
- We do not endorse or require students to embrace any religion or denomination.
- We respect the right of all students to believe or not believe according to their own conscience.
- We have had students enrolled and/or graduated who held many differing religious views (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.) or with no religious belief at all.
- We do not forbid any student from expressing his or her religious belief.
- We do not teach “creationism” in our science classes.
- We do not teach sectarian or denominational doctrine in any class. We do not require the reading of the Bible or any other religious text at this school.
- We do not require prayer at this school.
- We do teach the influence of religion in America’s founding, using the words of the Founders themselves.
- We do not require that students believe what the Founders believed, but we do require that students know what the Founders believed that made them act the way they did in founding this country, thus fulfilling state law which requires a “frequent recurrence to fundamental principles” and the “instruction in the essentials, sources, and history of the Constitutions of the United States.”
It is interesting to note that of the twenty-eight principles of government outlined in The 5000 Year Leap, those referred to by the complainant are only three or four that specifically mention religion. There are many more principles, such as the separation of powers, checks and balances, limited and delegated powers, strong local self-government, avoiding entangling alliances, etc., making a total of twenty-eight.
No other book outlines so clearly the ingredients which the Founders incorporated into their formula for freedom as does The 5000 Year Leap. It is the simplest and clearest explanation of what the Founders believed, supported by their own words, as they built the first free people in modern times. It is not associated with any sect or denomination. It is one of the best books written to help our students fulfill our school’s mission statement to understand the ideals and values of those who founded the American nation. (end of reply)
State Charter Board Determines Heritage Academy is within the law
The Charter Board’s responses included the following statements:
This month Heritage Academy will begin its twentieth year of operation and teaching history the way it really happened. It is evident, however, that there is a real effort underway to force a revisionist account of our nation’s history, to which, sadly, many schools have succumbed.
- “The documentation you [the complainant] submitted and the school’s response have been reviewed…and the complaint is now closed.”
- “…while the complainant provided some examples of content from the two books in question, the complainant has not provided any evidence that the school utilizes the content in a manner that violates the law.”
George Washington wishes all Americans would remember and teach our true history
Near the beginning of Washington’s First Inaugural Address to the people of the United States he expressed the hope that we would not forget what really happened and what he personally experienced in the founding of our nation. Said he:
“Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.”
Earl Taylor, Jr.