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Letter: Social studies students need to hear all sides

The Detroit News

Two years ago, the Michigan Department of Education circulated a set of social studies and science "standards" for public comment. I attended one of the public comment forums. What I read and heard concerned me.  Drawing upon my experience as a systems engineer, I proceeded to systematically identify specific issues and recommended resolutions to these issues. I then submitted a letter to the department expressing my concerns and recommendations regarding the proposed standards.  These recommendations are a matter of public record.

While the Department of Education didn't incorporate the science standards recommendations of an engineer with two decades of engineering experience, they did agree to form a focus group to revise the social studies standards. I was subsequently invited to participate on this focus group by the department.

As a member of the focus group, I expressed my desire that our final work product meet two requirements – political neutrality and accuracy. The focus group membership featured extremely diverse viewpoints. While I am widely regarded as a conservative voice, this perspective was not the predominant perspective of the focus group. I was one of 21 participants in the focus group, and the vast majority of these participants featured education professionals with much more liberal worldviews than I. 

In contrast to the partisan rancor being promulgated today by those seeking to score political points, I was personally approached by multiple members of the focus group with liberal worldviews who expressed appreciation for the opportunity to have frank, knowledgeable, and professional discussions on very sensitive issues with people of opposing worldviews.

So, if the liberal viewpoints on the focus group outnumbered the conservative viewpoints, why such outrage from pundits on the left? Simple. The original standards were not politically neutral and accurate. The original K-12 standards were simply a reflection of the liberal bias in our universities today. After all, it was academia who drove the development of these standards. The new standards dare to discuss both sides of sensitive topics such as political views, race relations, and religion.

Sen. Patrick Colbeck campaigns in Grand Rapids on Monday, May 21, 2018.

Throughout our deliberations on the new standards, I merely sought to ensure that we presented a balanced and accurate view of both sides of the political divide to our future leaders. Not once did I propose eliminating instruction on a liberal worldview. I merely insisted that such liberal worldviews also be balanced by instruction from a conservative worldview perspective.

We are now engaged in another series of public comments. If you wish to retain a balanced perspective on civics and history, please be sure to submit your comments at an upcoming public forum or submit them online.

State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, Canton Township

Republican candidate for governor