Proposed social studies curriculum takes heat


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Proposed changes to Michigan’s K-12 social studies curriculum are being criticized by those who say some of the changes appear to be an attempt to whitewash history.

An article published by Bridge Magazine Tuesday quickly went viral online. The article, titled “History gets a conservative twist in Michigan social studies standards,” criticized the proposal for taking out mentions connected to the civil rights movement, LGBT rights, and the removal of the word “democratic” from studies currently called “core democratic values,” among other things.

Many of the changes proposed in the 142-page draft appear to be an effort to clean up the curriculum wording and remove redundancies. But other changes are philosophical in nature.

Among those who participated in a focus group to make the changes is Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Patrick Colbeck. He says the current wording in the social studies curriculum leans liberal.

“My interest in participating in the focus group was to provide balance on a committee comprised of individuals representing a variety of viewpoints. After much debate and time, we came up with a consensus and I’m proud of the work as are many of the focus group participants,” Colbeck said in a statement Wednesday. “This level of discussion stands in stark contrast to the current attempts by political opponents to disparage our work. It’s interesting in particular, how my contribution is being singled out.”

State Board of Education member Lupe Ramos-Montigny, a Democrat and the only representative from West Michigan, said she had concerns about proposed changes and looked forward to discussing them with her fellow board members. She said a final decision on curriculum changes will take time.

She was among those who took issue with the removal of the word “democratic.”

“Democracy is a word that we have used forever,” Ramos-Montigny told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday. “It’s not a word that belongs to the Democratic Party.”

The statement from Colbeck’s team addressed that controversy as well:

“He advocated for removal of the word “democratic” not because it sounds similar to ‘Democrat’ but because students in school learn that the American system of government is a ‘democracy’ when it is in fact, a ‘republic,'” the statement said.

A spokesperson for Colbeck told 24 Hour News 8 that his goal was to help make changes that make the curriculum “neutral and accurate.”

“When you talk about this topic, then you have to talk about this topic,” Colbeck said in a phone interview with 24 Hour News 8. “What they wanted was a one-sided view of history. That’s what the original standards were.”

The state school board is taking feedback from the public on the proposed changes through the end of the month. Comments can be submitted online.

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