Flooding the Nation with Principles of Liberty
In the late1960s, W. Cleon Skousen began an almost impossible undertaking. Some of his friends, including his close friend, David O. McKay, suggested to him that he begin a project that was not being done by any other person or group in the nation--to teach principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers. This friend told him that in the coming years, America would need better answers to its problems and the Founders were the only ones with the correct answers. As he formulated plans to do so, Dr. Skousen was encouraged by the thought that, with the help of established political and religious organizations, this work would immediately gain momentum and spread quickly throughout the nation. How deflated he felt when it was told to him by his close friend that this must be an effort not associated with any other political, civic, or religious organization. His friend assured him that it will eventually gain more acceptance if it is done totally separate, than if it were tied to any other institution.
With a great deal of faith in his friend's counsel, Dr. Skousen consecrated the remainder of his life and possessions to this work. At first it was basically a one-man effort as he invited his university students to come and listen to the Founders' story. Then, in 1971, with the help and encouragement of a gathering group of more close friends, he officially organized what is now The National Center for Constitutional Studies. Over the next 35 years, this organization would go through monumental ups and downs. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, and with the country trying to find better direction, it seemed to pick up steam and momentum. Then as the country seemed to become a little more settled, the NCCS seemed to plateau. Dr. Skousen seemed to sense, as George Washington did when he resigned his commission, that the success of this effort cannot depend on just one man. The people themselves must sense the need and come to really want this message in order for it to succeed, and so he turned the work over to others and began to take more of an advisory role. Amazingly, the same thing occurred as happened in Washington's day. There followed a very difficult time when some began to wonder if this whole effort would succeed or not. But a few friends who had gained a conviction of the Founders' vision kept the organization alive through their encouragement and support. Dr. Skousen continued to finish his work in packaging the materials so they would be ready to teach as the people became ready to accept them.
Then, on January 9, 2006, Dr. Skousen passed away. He had done his work as best he knew how. The Founders' message was now left to stand on its own to see if the people would embrace it. What follows is the amazing story of what seems to be a resurgence of hope and the unfolding of a dream of many who pioneered this effort for so many years.
Flooding the nation with the story of the making of the Constitution
Over the past two years, NCCS has distributed nearly 400,000 copies of A More Perfect Union DVD-the story of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. With the help of federal law requiring the teaching of the Constitution in public schools, this movie has filled the need of many teachers across the nation, who have desired quality, creditable material to use in their classrooms. The initial mailing of 100,000 was completed last year as we have described in previous letters. But this was only enough for one DVD per school. Since then, over 100,000 additional copies have been ordered by teachers, schools, and school districts for use in each classroom. The El Paso, Texas School district, for example, ordered many more additional copies so that every teacher could have one. Parents have ordered many more thousands to use in their homes and to give to their children's teachers to make sure they have their own copy. Some schools report receiving several copies. They are getting the message that this is what parents want their children to learn!
Listen to a sampling of the reaction:
- "I just finished showing this video to my civics classes and I just want you to know that we truly enjoyed the movie which depicted the Constitutional Convention in 1787. While I attempted to present this moment in history in lectures, the video truly became the catalyst for student understanding. I especially liked the fact that it was filmed on location and the casting of characters was wonderful. I also downloaded the teacher's guide from your website and I have used pieces of that to enhance the movie and discussion. I just wanted to take a moment to send my appreciation to you for putting together such a useful instructional tool-one that I know I will continue using for years to come."
- A middle school civics teacher in Warrenton, Virginia
- "My students have watched the movie, and I have rarely seen seventh graders so properly impressed. They have gained a respect for our Constitution and for the Framers that I could not have given them with any other resource. I believe they have learned lessons that will be with them all of their lives."
- A middle school civics teacher in Marshall, Virginia.
More resources to be mailed to nation's schools this month
Yet this month, and in plenty of time for teachers to plan for Constitution Week in September, two more useful resources will be sent to each of the 100,000 schools in the nation. A beautiful Constitution poster, measuring 22" by 34", with the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the other amendments attractively arranged, will be mailed so that teachers can frame and hang it in the classroom. Some states are now requiring this display in every classroom along with a U.S. flag. On the back of the poster will be the Constitution at a Glance .
Also contained in this mailing will be our 30-page A More Perfect Union Teacher's Guide, which helps break up the DVD presentation into five teachable segments with discussion ideas and questions. It also includes the Constitution at a Glance which helps students memorize what's in the Constitution, hand motions for memorizing the Preamble, several games and more, that will help the teacher impress the importance of Constitutional concepts on the minds of young students K-12. We have printed many thousands more of these study guides because it will surely be an item in demand in the future.
Flooding the nation with The 5,000 Year Leap
The updated and newly-covered edition of The 5,000 Year Leap is already becoming an item in demand across the nation. Listen to a few paraphrased comments by those who have recently read it:
My son is in Iraq. Before he left, I gave him a copy of The 5,000 Year Leap . He read it and told me while in Iraq that he was so thankful for receiving this book because it helped him analyze the many different philosophies that one is exposed to sometimes in the army. He said it helped give him balance in his thinking about freedom and responsibility.
- from a recent phone call to NCCS from a soldier's mother
This book should be required reading in every high school in the nation.
- from a high school teacher in the Midwest
I have carefully evaluated several Constitutional study courses available on the market. The DVD course on The 5,000 Year Leap published by NCCS is by far the best course I have found. Anyone who wants to understand America's Freedom Formula from its foundation should take this course, especially now that it has become much more affordable.
- from a citizen in Pennsylvania
The 5,000 Year Leap presented to state legislators
During the past few weeks, nearly every state legislator in the state of Arizona, Idaho, and Utah, and a significant number of legislators in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and a few other states, has each received a personal copy of The 5,000 Year Leap. This writer's class of high school seniors took on a special project last week and hand-wrote a personal note in each of several copies. We then spent the day at the state capitol where we attended committee hearings, visited with some legislators, and delivered our copies of the book to them. We were sitting in the gallery of the House of Representatives at its afternoon session, where all 60 members were in attendance, and were introduced as visitors in the gallery by a Representative friend. After introducing us, he picked up his copy of The 5,000 Year Leap and said, "Each of you is receiving a complementary copy of this book today. I do not know of a better, more readable book to help explain the simple principles of freedom than this book will do." He then read a short passage from the book and again recommended it to his colleagues. We all felt like we had accomplished an important first step. We then stayed to listen to a debate over a bill that was quite heated and my students looked at me as if to say, "The answer is in the book!"
Here is a sampling of comments written by my senior students in the front cover of The 5,000 Year Leap given to each legislator.
"Dear Representative _____________
"As a graduating senior this year, I was able to study these principles of freedom in my government class. I have greatly enjoyed studying these ideas which have come from our Founding Fathers' writings. It is amazing how well our Founders ideas still work to solve today's problems. One of my favorite quotes is on page 290. Benjamin Franklin states, 'Think what you do when you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty.' This is a wonderful book."
"Dear Senator _________
"This past year I have thoroughly read and studied this book. There are many great principles given that are often forgotten. One that stands out in my mind states: 'The proper role of government is to protect equal rights not provide equal things.' (p. 115) It seems as though the Founders had answers to everything. For example, during their days it was very popular in other countries to proclaim that the role of government was to take from the 'haves' and give to the 'have nots' so that all might be truly 'equal.' However, the American Founders perceived that this proposition contained a huge fallacy. (See page 115 to find what it was). I hope you will read this book and share it with others."
"Dear Representative _______________
"'Nothing is of more importance for the public weal than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue. Wise and good men are, in my opinion, the strength of the state, more so than riches or arms..' (p. 55) I know these ideas in this quote by Benjamin Franklin are essential in sustaining our freedom. I wholeheartedly agree with Franklin, for from virtuous and respectable individuals comes wise decisions. I hope you will read this book and come to agree with and sustain the essential principles for freedom that are explained herein."
"Dear Representative _______________
"I am a graduating senior this year. Last semester, we studied this book as part of our government course. As I read quotes from the Founders in this book, I began to understand more fully the proper role of government. I strongly encourage you to read it. I've been amazed at how many simple answers the Founders had for today's problems. I would like to refer you to the quote from James Madison on page 54; it really impacted my view of our nation and government. Thank you for your time and for all your hard work in behalf of our state."
As I see my students take to heart the message of the Founders, I cannot help but agree with George Washington:
"A primary object.should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing.than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?"
I once had the sad thought that it is too bad Dr. Skousen could not be here to observe the fruits of his many years of pioneering labor; but then, I have thought many times since that he probably already knows, and no doubt, from a much broader prospective. I can just hear him say, "If we do our part, in the end, we win!"
Earl Taylor, Jr.
PS This month we are completing two more items for help in spreading this message. First, a card containing the 28 Principles of Liberty will be reprinted. It is something you can easily hand to anyone you meet. Secondly, The 5,000 Year Leap will be ready in audio format, both in an 8-disk CD and in a one-disk MP3 format. We will let you know when these resources are available.