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Tell Lansing: take the politics out of our curriculum!

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Tell Lansing: take the politics out of our curriculum!

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Defend sound, non-ideological social studies standards

Dear Friends,

Gap year or no, there will always be important issues we need to bring to your attention, and this is one. So we're delaying our usual state budget coverage (mildly good news - it's an election year, after all) to alert you to something very strange going on in Lansing that shapes what our children will be taught in school.

A planned refresh of the Michigan social studies content standards has apparently been hijacked by some folks with an extreme political agenda, and many of the changes they desired are in the current final draft. There's still time to take action to stop this nonsense, and we'll give you the info below.

But first, let's look at what these extremists want to change in our social studies standards. You will probably not be surprised that Tea Party favorite Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) is leading the charge - especially since he is also running for governor. But you might be surprised by how far he and his allies are willing to go. Here is the lead from the article in Bridge Magazine, produced by the non-partisan Center for Michigan, which broke the story last week:

References to gay rights, Roe v. Wade, climate change and "core democratic values" have been stripped from Michigan’s new proposed social studies standards, and the historic role of the NAACP downplayed, through the influence of Republican state Sen. Patrick Colbeck and a cadre of conservatives who helped rewrite the standards for public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Apparently, Sen. Colbeck and his friends think the phrase "core democratic values" sounds partisan, leading fellow Sen. David Knezek to point out that most school children grasp the rules of capitalization.

Some of the changes are more sinister, however: a high school standard covering the expansion of civil rights and liberties was changed to emphasize “how the expansion of rights for some groups can be viewed as an infringement of rights and freedoms of others.” Colbeck told the magazine he added that language.

References to the Ku Klux Klan have also been pared back, though one of Colbeck's original recommendations which didn't make the cut advocated a distorted view of history: "'The KKK was founded as an anti-Republican organization not an anti-black organization,' Colbeck wrote. 'It just so happened that the majority of Southern blacks were in fact Republican.'"

Let that sink in for a minute.

To appreciate the enormity of the changes successfully pushed by Colbeck and allies, please read the Bridge story and take a look at the draft standards:

Once you've done that, be sure to speak out.

The State Board of Education, now evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, must still approve any standards.

The Michigan Department of Education is accepting public comment online through June 30 through an online form here. (The form assumes you're familiar with the standards document, so you might want to have that handy.)

MDE is also still holding public comment sessions around the state where all are welcome to respond to the proposed standards:

  • Flint, 6-8 p.m. June 18, at the Erwin L. Davis Education Center of the Genesee Intermediate School District, 2413 W. Maple Ave.
  • Saginaw, 6-8 p.m. June 19, 3860 Fashion Square Boulevard
  • Waterford, 6-8 p.m. June 20, at Oakland Intermediate School District, 2111 Pontiac Lake Rd.
  • Sault Ste. Marie, 6-8 p.m. June 26, at Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District, 315 Armory Place.

Several members of the State Board have promised to block these politicized changes and insist on a more neutral and educationally sound document. Let's make sure they know we don't want our educational standards politicized.

Until next time,

Steve Norton
MI Parents for Schools

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