Heritage Academy, one of Arizona‘s oldest public charter schools, has come under fire from the Americans United for Separation of Church and State for using textbooks that seem to actively promote religious interpretations of American history.
According Americans United, the public school uses two books by a controversial anti-communist author named Cleon Skousen, called The 5,000 Year Leap and The Making of America. According to Alex Luchenister, the associate legal director for Americans United, the books “push ‘Christian nation‘ propaganda and other religious teachings on impressionable, young students.”
Heritage founder and Principal Earl Taylor sees things differently; speaking to The Arizona Republic, he said that “Our purpose is not to convert students to different religious views. It is to show them that religion influenced what the Founders did.”
According to Taylor, the books are balanced by the other selections, which include Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl and Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto. Americans United contend that both of these books are taught as historical documents, from a particular moment in time and a particular worldview, while Skousen’s books are used as actual textbooks, presenting material as objective truths (or as close to objective truths as one comes in history).
Skousen’s books, The 5,000 Year Leap in particular, have received glowing reviews from his contemporaries in the Tea Party Three Ring Circus. Glenn Beck called it a “divinely inspired” take on American history, and Christina Botteri, the spokeswoman for the California-based National Tea Party Foundation, told The Arizona Republic that it was “a handbook of tea-party ideals.”
With all that star power behind it, does it come as any surprise that legitimate legal scholars like Garrett Epps believe that “Skousen’s account of the growth and meaning of the Constitution is quite inaccurate,” and it’s companion, The Making of America, presents a systematically racist viewpoint of the Civil War?
“Parts of his major textbook, ‘The Making of America,’ present a systematically racist view of the Civil War. … A long description of slavery in the book claims that the state (of slavery) was beneficial to African Americans and that Southern racism was caused by the ‘intrusion’ of northern abolitionists and advocates of equality for the freed slaves,” Epps said.
Epps said he believes that “any student taught from these materials in a public institution is being subjected to religious indoctrination” and “is also being crippled educationally and will be ill-prepared to take part in any serious program of instruction of American government and law.”
The Making of America also includes an essay by Fred Albert Shannon, who argued that “if [black children] ran naked it was generally from choice, and when the white boys had to put on shoes and go away to school they were likely to envy the freedom of their colored playmates.”
Americans United want Skousen’s books dropped from the curriculum, but at the time writing, Principal Taylor has only scaled back on the extent to which they’re used in the classroom for practical reasons:
The total of the two books is about 1,200 pages. It is a lot to require the students to go through that much material. I decided to stay more with the historical quotes, leaving out a lot of the commentary and letting the students discuss the quotes, draw their own conclusions, and thereby making it more meaningful and applicable to them.
How any reasonable person thinks these books mirror actual history is a mystery. A book of quotes by Vladimir Lenin, Pyotr Kropotkin, Mikhail Bakunin, Nestor Makhno, and Gracchus Babeuf would more closely mirror reality than anything Skousen puts out.
You can watch a report in the video below: