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Proposed Curriculum Removes Gay Rights, Roe v. Wade, Climate Change, and “Core Democratic Values”

State of Michigan proposed social studies standards for grades K-12, written by conservative lawmakers, removes mention of gay rights, Roe v. Wade, and climate change while also eliminating the term “core democratic values,” which they argue implies left-leaning partisanship, and downplaying the work of the NAACP from the state-mandated curriculum.

According to Bridge Magazine, the effort to strip these topics from the history books is being led by Republican state Senator Patrick Colbeck of Canton Twp. who, with the help of other state conservatives, heavily influenced the proposed standards changes, which are slated to be reviewed after a public commentary period that ends June 30.

Colbeck reportedly advocated for a conservative-leaning revision of the standards but was still open to other viewpoints during the development of the proposal, stated Rebecca Baker-Bush, a member of the standards committee and social studies consultant out of Ottawa Area Intermediate School District.

For his part, Colbeck insisted his intent was to make the social studies curriculum more apolitical, arguing that as it is framed now, incidents such as the wedding cake case for same-sex couples brought before the Supreme Court tend to focus solely on the same-sex marriage rights of citizens rather than also exploring the religious rights of bakery owners.

I don’t know about anyone else, but as both an educator and a parent, these proposed revisions concern me. If the intent really is to provide students with an apolitical presentation of material, why should removal of anything be required? Why not include viewpoints from all sides of the political spectrum? To completely eliminate mention of very real social and political cases and events in American history sounds too Orwellian for my taste. And to eliminate “core democratic values”? Really? We are a democracy. “Core democratic values” are at the very foundation of our system and guide our country. How about we teach students the difference between “democracy” and “democrat” instead (and maybe give the Senator a mini-lesson of his own)? Good grief, people, are we this far gone as a society?

In a more detailed account of the proposed changes, Bridge Magazine reports:

  • References to the Ku Klux Klan are decreased, from two to a single reference in eighth-grade, along with a mention in a list of optional examples high school history teachers can consider when teaching about social issues between 1890 and 1930.
  • Five existing references to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have been cut, with a lone reference remaining in a section on the 1920s on its “legal strategy to attack segregation.”
  • The two references to gays and lesbians in the current standards, in sections dealing with the fight for rights for minority groups, have been deleted.
  • Both references in the current standards to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case legalizing abortion, are removed.
  • A high school standard about the expansion of civil rights and liberties for minority groups cut references to individual groups, including immigrants, people with disabilities and gays and lesbians. The new proposal includes teaching “how the expansion of rights for some groups can be viewed as an infringement of rights and freedoms of others.” Colbeck told Bridge he added that phrase.
  • References to climate change are cut in the proposed standards, with the impact of man on global warming limited to an optional example sixth-grade teachers can use when discussing climate in different parts of the planet. (The standards retain a more generic reference to teaching how “human actions modify the environment.”)  In notes Colbeck sent to the state board, the former aerospace engineer argues that climate change is “not settled science.”

Teachers are still free to develop their own lessons and incorporate mention of eliminated content into their instruction, but state curriculum standards must direct learning outcomes at each grade level.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go through my Netflix and Hulu queues and purge my bookshelves. Suddenly all those dystopian stories I was so fond of ring a little too true to be entertaining anymore.

A full list of proposed social studies standards changes can be viewed here.