Opinion: Leftist bias evident in social studies standards

Patrick Colbeck
Generic class room photo at Madison Elementary School.

We live in a divided nation. Name-calling and lies have replaced reasoned debate and the pursuit of the truth. There is perhaps no better example of this divide than the rhetoric on display at public forums throughout Michigan in the wake of the release of the May 2018 standards.

From 2016-18, I was honored to serve on an MDE focus group of about 20 members. For the vast majority of our work sessions, I served as one of only two conservatives in this group. The objectives adopted by this focus group included a commitment to produce politically neutral and accurate standards. The May 2018 standards which we produced satisfied this criteria.

The latest incarnation of Michigan social studies standards was released by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) in March 2019. In contrast to the May 2018 standards, however, a new “task force” which produced these new standards replaced the former criteria with the objective of each student seeing himself or herself in the standards.

Specific examples of political bias revolve around the replacement of “core values” with “democratic values” throughout the standards but best summarized in Section 2.1.2. We should be pursuing "core American values," but that does not appear to fit the political agenda of the new standards developers. Core values should be traceable to an American social compact (e.g. Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution), not pop culture.

Instead of adhering to this standard, the authors sought to literally promote the professed values of the Democratic party under the fitting umbrella “democratic values.” The Declaration states specifically that we are all created equal. We all have equal value in the eyes of our Creator. Our laws are subsequently meant for our equal protection.

Yet the so-called “progressives” running today’s Democratic Party and the development of the 2019 standards seek to scrub the references to “created” and skip simply to “equality”. This opens the door to their philosophy of equal outcomes (i.e. earnings, property) — except, that is, when it comes to representing differing world views in our social studies standards.

Specific examples of anti-Christian bias include but are not limited to the following: 1) addition of gay rights as a discussion point under civil rights without any balancing reference to religious rights of conscienceand the retention of a dedicated section on Islam while the dedicated section on Christianity (5.2.3) has been eliminated.

A specific example of inaccuracy includes inconsistent references to our system of government as a democracy, constitutional democracy and constitutional republic throughout different sections of standards.

As a point of fact, while we do feature democratic processes such as ballot initiatives, our system of government is designed to be a constitutional republic, not a democracy.

We elect representatives of the people to make laws on our behalf subject to the constraints of the constitution. The current standards deliberately obfuscate our form of government in the minds of our future generation of leaders.

We need to demand politically neutral and accurate standards. Any attempts to revise the May 2018 standards should still be held accountable to these objectives. Anything less than this pursuit ensures that our students will be subject to continued progressive indoctrination, not an enlightened education enabling them to participate in reasoned debate.

Patrick Colbeck is a former Michigan state senator and gubernatorial candidate.