Back in June of this year, a bill was introduced in the Michigan Senate which I dutifully read, and found to be little more than another case of far-right patriotic hyperventilation — I do declare, bring me the smelling salts.
Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-7) was the primary sponsor of the seemingly innocuous flag-waving waste of legislative energy. Senate Bill 423 intends to amend the Revised School Code to establish rules for teaching about the history of our nation and state, and their foundational documents. The proposed law predictably reeks of defensiveness and moral outrage, with implied tones that these things are somehow not being taught in Michigan’s schools. It is not a stretch to say that some GOP lawmakers imagine public schools as communist incubators run by union thugs.
Unimpressed, I took a pass on the story at that time. It was just more political window dressing — bluster without purpose. But, I missed something that the keen eye of John Lindstrom at Gongwer News Service caught.
Among the many foundational documents SB-423 promotes, was one odd selection. The bill calls for school boards to accommodate the teaching and display of the following (see if you can find the one that, as Sesame Street would say, “is not like the others”):
- The Declaration of Independence
- The Constitution of the United States
- The Bill of Rights
- The Federalist Papers
- The Anti-Federalist Papers
- The Pledge of Allegiance
- The Northwest Ordinances
- The Magna Carta
- The Mayflower Compact
- The State Constitution
- The National Motto
- The National Anthem
- The writings, speeches, documents and proclamations of Founding Fathers and Presidents
Well, I sure didn’t catch it, but bonus points to those smarty-pants teachers who called it — the anti-federalist papers. As Lindstrom points out, these papers are not only generally not considered foundational, they are actually anti-foundational, and have recently enjoyed a certain amount of fresh attention with the rise of the Tea Party. The anti-federalist papers are a series of mostly anonymous writings that opposed adopting a constitution in favor of absolute state’s rights and autonomy. They viewed a centralized government as a sure road to tyranny. Here’s just one gem from these “founding documents”:
“The new constitution in its present form is calculated to produce despotism, thraldom and confusion, and if the United States do swallow it, they will find it a bolus, that will create convulsions to their utmost extremities.”
My, my…that sounds just awful! Let’s hope the Affordable Care website is functional sometime soon because, after nearly 240 years of this assault on our extremities, we are bound to become collectively ill any moment now.
In all seriousness, is there really a movement to revive anti-federalist rhetoric?
Turns out — yes. An organization calling themselves The Federalist Papers, purport to advance our constitution, yet they clearly suffer from a bad case of libertarian schizophrenia (Note: mental health issues are now covered under Obamacare). They proudly list the anti-federalist papers as key founding documents. The content and commentary on their website is an exercise in painful cognitive conflict. Just reading it caused me convulsions in my utmost extremities.
Whatever the motives and virtues of Sen. Colbeck’s bill may be, its erupted like a festering boil from the Senate Committee on Education for consideration this week. But don’t worry, our lawmakers are on recess for a couple of weeks — apparently some of them “been gone hunt’n” too, maybe for those 43 big bad wolves they’ve identified in the state.
Amy Kerr Hardin