Michigan education board approves long-debated social studies curriculum

    Susan J. Demas

    The Michigan Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve a new social studies curriculum for the first time in more than 10 years after a long, controversial development process.

    The effort to develop the new standards amid cries of bias by conservative activists was so deliberate and tense that it inspired a New York Times feature, with five years of debate culminating in their passage on a 6-2 vote.

    Voting against the standards were the board’s two Republican members, Nikki Snyder and Tom McMillin, a former state House member.

    State board springs new social studies standards, despite GOP cries of bias

    The board voted to approve both the new guidelines, as well as an amendment that will add more to the curriculum about Sikhism, a development that Michigan Radio reported brought several members of Michigan’s Sikh community to the meeting.

    Patrick Colbeck

    Much of conservatives’ initial opposition to the standards centered around their inclusion of information on the LGBTQ rights movement, climate change, and an esoteric debate over the use of the word “democratic,” the charge for which was led by former gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton).

    In an April board hearing that laid the track for Tuesday’s vote to establish the new curriculum, McMillin argued that its authors intended to “start way left[-wing], then give a little so [the standards are] still extremely left.” He proposed their further review and a delay on the vote, which was similarly shut down 6-2 along party lines.

    At that meeting, Michigan Department of Education (MDE) Deputy Superintendent Venessa Keesler said the new curriculum was “not about politics,” but that they include “more room for perspectives that have been present all along [in America], but maybe have not necessarily been prioritized.”

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson is a former reporter for the Advance. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.


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