Conservative class on Founding Fathers' answers to current woes gains popularity





Earl Taylor has spent 31 years teaching that "the Founding Fathers have answers to nearly every problem we have in America today." Only in recent months has he found so many eager students.

Two years ago, Taylor, who is president of the National Center for Constitutional Studies, made about 35 trips to speak to small church groups and political gatherings. This year, he has received so many requests that he enlisted 15 volunteer instructors, who are on pace to hold more than 180 sessions reaching thousands of people.

"We're trying to flood the nation . . . and it's happening," said Taylor, 63, a charter school principal....

His course became popular in part because of an emotional endorsement last year from Beck, who has praised the late W. Cleon Skousen, who wrote the course's curriculum. He was a far-right anti-Communist Mormon fundamentalist and professor of religious studies at Brigham Young University whose historical work has been criticized by academics as ill-conceived and inaccurate. (The group Institute on the Constitution in Pasadena, Md., offers similar courses on a smaller scale.)...

Michael Kimmage, a history professor at Catholic University, said the popularity of Taylor's course has continuity with the anti-Communist movement in the 1950s.

"There is an us-versus-them quality to it," he said. "It is a search for political purity that is deeply associated with the Constitution and has a timeless quality. They are saying that these are truths about politics that never change, and it's our obligation to return to these timeless truths."...

But scholars say the course's emphasis is flawed. Gutzman, a Republican-turned-libertarian, found Skousen's work "filled with inaccuracies" and a religiosity that gives the free-market system a "patina of religion." Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, called Skousen a "fake authority."...



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