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Golden Rule? N.C. Senate Approves ALEC Model Bill on Gold-Standard Instruction

North Carolina senators approved a bill earlier this week that would require curriculum for high school students to include instruction about the gold standard and the "constitutional limitations on government power to tax and spend and prompt payment of public debt," among other principles.

Senate Bill 524, which the Republican-controlled Senate adopted on April 29, would require the state school board to oversee curriculum requirements that include the teaching of "money with intrinsic value," a reference to the gold standard. The U.S. dropped the gold standard, which linked the value of the dollar to the value of gold, in 1933, and in 1971 the U.S. stopped allowing people to exchange dollars for gold. The gold standard sometimes draws high-profile support from conservatives, who believe that money not linked to a commodity like gold drives inflation and unstable financial markets.

In addition to that requirement and the principle of constitutional limitations on government power, the bill would require that high school curriculum include instruction concerning:

• A "strong defense and supremacy of civil authority over military."

• "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none."

• "Eternal vigilance by 'We the People.'"

The bill adds these five items of curricular focus to an existing list of core instructional principles in high school history, but changes current law to require the state board, not local school boards, to oversee these requirements. 

According to WRAL, the sponsor of legislation, GOP Sen. David Curtis, said the bill is meant to reinforce a state law passed in 2011 that requires the teaching of founding American principles to high school students. Curtis said he had heard that law was not being implemented as intended by the state, and that the bill attempts to ensure that students are taught these founding principles, in addition to adding the five new principles I specified above.

"If this is not implemented properly, we may have to add another course," Curtis told WRAL. 

The principles outlined in that 2011 law include private property rights, federalism, due process, and individual responsibility.

Those five principles are nearly identical to those found in the the Founding Philosophy and Principles Act, a model bill from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative Washington think tank that supports free markets. The bill's "strong defense" language does depart from the ALEC original, which instead requires the principle of the "right of people to keep and bear arms, strong defense capability, supremacy of civil authority over military." 

During a debate, Curtis said that the phrase "money with intrinsic value" can be found in the Federalist Papers. The phrase doesn't actually appear there, as WRAL points out, although one of its authors, James Madison, does bemoan a "rage for paper money" in The Federalist Number 10. 

The phrase "entangling alliances with none" is lifted directly from Thomas Jefferson's inaugural address in 1801

Remember, North Carolina legislators have recently exhibited other notable doubts about the state education department's work—last year, the state legislature passed a bill requiring state officials to review the Common Core State Standards, which the state school board adopted in 2010, before Republicans took control of the state legislature in 2012. It's unclear exactly how (or if) that review will lead to significant revisions of the common core, but clearly there was a thirst among conservative lawmakers to show at least some measure of skepticism about the standards. 

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