North Carolina brings the Founding Principles Back to School

Julia Shaw /

In 2010, North Carolina public school officials proposed changing the high school U.S. History course curriculum to cover events only from 1877 forward. Forget George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the Constitution, and the Civil War—nothing meaningful happened in America before 1877.

But, what a difference a year makes.

Thanks to the Founding Principles Act, North Carolina high school students will continue to learn not only the key people and documents in American history prior to 1877 but also the philosophical underpinnings of America.

Signed it into law on June 23, 2011, the Founding Principles Act requires high school students to pass a course on the philosophical foundations of America in order to graduate. Studying the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the writings of the Founders, students will learn about inalienable rights, the rule of law, private property rights, federalism, and individual responsibility. The law also requires state standardized tests to include questions on the “philosophical foundations of our form of government and the principles underlying the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and its amendments, and the most important of the Federalist Papers.”

The Founding Principles Act is a good step toward educating the next generation of students about America’s philosophical foundations. But you don’t need to be a high school student in North Carolina to learn about the foundations of America.

With the Heritage Foundation’s companion curriculum for We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future, you can learn the ten core principles that define our national creed and common purpose: liberty, equality, natural rights, and the consent of the governed, religious liberty, private property, rule of law, limited government, self-government, and national independence.

For those of you in the Tar Heel state, The North Carolina History Project of the John Locke Foundation provides key information on North Carolina’s role in the formation and ratification of the United States Constitution.

After the Constitutional Convention, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin what sort of government had been created. “A republic,” replied Franklin, “if you can keep it.” North Carolina’s Founding Principles Act recognizes that educating the next generation about the principles of the American Founding in essential to maintaining our Republic. And for that, Franklin would be proud.