At least once a week, I find myself talking to someone who has absolutely no awareness of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at all. Each occurrence of this phenomenon brings about the same feeling of utter disbelief in me. Slowly, I’ve realized that while I have a keen awareness of the influence ALEC has within the halls of NC Government, many, many people simply do not. In truth, although few of our Legislators publicly associate themselves with ALEC, if you name a regressive bill this NCGA has passed since 2010, there’s a high likelihood it came from ALEC. The 2015 session has thus far been no different. Whether the issue is guns, education, fracking, voter ID, tax reform, or calling for a Convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution, ALEC has been driving it all.
So here we go… I’m going to throw out my take on the latest of ALEC’s intrusions into NC, for your consumption. This is just my assessment and I heartily welcome all viewpoints. I am, as my wife often tells me, frequently wrong.
It has often been the case that educational texts, from which our children learn, needed reworking. Typically this has been done to correct some deficiency of information. For example, history texts have been updated, via the acquisition of new books or through a reworked republication of the original, to correct such deficiencies as the omission of African-American history for example. But when bills are presented, seemingly out-of-the-blue, that seek to create a specific new course, or to add or delete specific information from an already existing curriculum, it should give every Citizen cause to be suspicious.
The latest example of ALEC’s intrusion into NC Government and the current cause to be suspicious, comes to us by way of SB 524… the innocuously named “ACT TO ENHANCE THE RIGOR OF INSTRUCTION OF THE FOUNDING PRINCIPLES”. This bill, sponsored by Senators Soucek, Curtis, and Tillman is an almost word for word copy of the ALEC template bill. It would be impossible to look at these bills side by side and NOT arrive at the conclusion that NC’s bill came directly from ALEC. Please click on the links below and open them in separate windows to make this comparison for yourself.
On the surface, we might look at the bill’s title and think, “What’s wrong with teaching the founding principles of the U.S.”? Well… it boils down to what someone considers to be the “Founding Principles”. In this case, we’re really talking about Federalist principles. More specifically, ALEC’s version of those Federalist principles. The oft cited origin of these principles, with regard to the modern iteration of Federalism, is the “Federalist Papers”. It would seem reasonable to expect that something contended to produce “Founding Principles of the United States” would also be considered to be one of America’s Founding Documents. For now though, suffice it to say that the Federalist Papers are not, in any way, founding documents. But oh how the neocons desperately want you to believe that the Federalist Papers are more important than even the Constitution itself. For reasons that would be too lengthy to enumerate here, they aren’t.
To be clear, the ALEC version of Federalism and the version seemingly held by many conservatives, is one best defined as Decentralizing Federalism. In other words, this particular flavor of Federalism seeks to remove power from a central authority (our Federal Government) and give this power to the States. The calls for secession heard from several States in recent years are most likely the result of this same brand of Federalist ideology. As ALEC is deeply rooted in multiple States across the U.S. in terms of Legislative input, power, and control... their apparent adherence to Decentralizing Federalism is incredibly self-serving. In this context, ALEC's advocacy for decentralization might at least rouse suspicions that they seek to remove power from the Federal Government and hand it over to themselves. Remember, ALEC is a Koch Brothers product and is entrenched in multiple States... if Federal power is decentralized and given to individual States, their overarching reach into many of these States could give them a power similar to that of a central authority. I'm not a conspiracy theorist though, so I'll leave it to anyone who cares to explore these ideas further.
Modern GOP Federalism, as seen through the jewel encrusted lens of ALEC, is at its core, a Decentralizing Federalist agenda. ALEC even proudly proclaims itself a champion of Federalism on its website and as we have seen, our NCGA is more than happy to advance ALEC’s template legislation at every turn. So, as discussed earlier, it’s really no surprise that SB 524 is an almost word-for-word copy of the ALEC template legislation.
The very serious and quite disturbing reality of SB 524 is that it mandates that Decentralizing Federalism and presumably the more decentralizing ideologies contained within the Federalist Papers, be taught to NC High Schoolers. How do I know that? Well, although it's only my interpretation, the decentralization focus appears to be spelled out by the principles in the bill the authors chose to emphasize. Perhaps even more interesting is what appears to have been left out of the NC bill during its metamorphosis from the ALEC template. This political philosophy, as it is to be presented to NC students, is not called Federalism. Instead, the philosophy of Federalism and the associated “principles” are rebranded as “Founding Principles” of the United States. While the word “Federalism” is enumerated among the list of founding principles, the reality is that this mandated curriculum appears to be proposed for one reason and one reason only. The inclusion of Decentralizing Federalism as a Founding Principle. This, my friends, is what many people would call indoctrination. And it’s happening right here and right now in NC.
So… is this an attempt at indoctrinating the youth of NC? You, of course, may read these bills and arrive at totally different conclusions. Either way, please share your thoughts… maybe together we can arrive at some consensus. By the way, thanks for hanging in there to read this excruciatingly long post!