Michigan Sen. Patrick Colbeck: ‘There is a culture war going on’

State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton Twp.

In dueling speeches on the floor of the Michigan Senate Tuesday, state Sen David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, and state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton Twp., debated controversial changes in a draft of new social studies standards in Michigan classrooms. This is a transcript of a Colbeck’s response to Knezek’s speech. (A transcript of Knezek’s speech can be found here.) 

I’d like to start with a quote from one of my favorite presidents, Ronald Reagan, who once said, “The trouble with liberals is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” I am afraid that applies to my colleague from the Fifth District in regards to these social studies standards.

When it comes to those social study standards, we had a nice little discussion back in 2015, there was a submittal from the State Board of Education for some standards. I got together with 17 other legislators and signed a letter that had about 15 different issues with those standards because they were not politically neutral and they were not accurate.

For example, they would sit there and promote Islam to the exclusion of any other religion; they would promote LGBT rights to the exclusion of religious conscience; they would promote progressive policies to the exclusion of conservative policies. I didn’t think that was right.

I didn’t propose to go off and eliminate the discussion of Islam like he suggests. I didn’t promote the elimination of the discussion of any of those topics. All I wanted to do was make sure we had a balanced discussion of both of those topics, that we had a balanced discussion perspective. After all, this is going into the education of our students.

A lot of the stuff that he is promoting, frankly, is not true. There is a lot of stuff that explicitly added in some of the standards before that was (re)moved as referenced, but that isn’t because we didn’t want teachers to go off and teach it. It was because it fell into a detail level that was not the same as all the standards. So we can say we eliminated references to the KKK and all the other stuff that is out there, but you know what? When we actually got into the discussions, we found out that whenever we wanted to talk about some of these different issues we actually had an adult conversation on it with the people who were involved in these focus groups.

We didn’t go around calling people names, as has been the custom of the senator from the Fifth District here. He seems to make a habit of that. I think we are called to a higher calling than that here in Senate. We are called to have an adult conversation. That is what we had during this focus group. We had people from various and very diverse political ideologies coming together under the basic objective of making sure that our social studies standards for the next generation of leaders for this state were going to be politically neutral and accurate.

I believe we achieved that.

Are these the standards that I would have written from scratch? Heck, no. But you know what? We had a lot of discussions where we had people make compromises across the board, and we came up with something that I was happy to say was politically neutral and accurate.

A lot of people dealing with the complete opposite side of the worldview from me appreciated the discussion because we did have an adult conversation. I wish that adult conversation would extend here to the Senate floor. I really do.

As we go forward into the public comment period for these social studies standards, there are a lot of people trying to politicize this. We have news outlets that are trying to politicize it. We need to face the fact that there is a culture war that is going on. Unfortunately, it is our schools that are on the front line. There are some people who don’t want to hear the other side of the discussion. They don’t want to hear about conservative policies.

These standards actually make sure that we don’t exclude any of the other voices out there. We don’t exclude these sensitive topics around racism, we don’t exclude the sensitive topic around LGBT rights. What we do is we put them in context of what is going on in our society where we have a counterbalance with it, and we have other people with other perspectives that need to be heard as well.

You may try to shout down and ridicule and belittle people that are just simply trying to have a balanced discussion on it. But I, for one, am proud of the results that we had out of this focus group. It took two years of serious discussions. It has been four years in an attempt to have a serious discussion and we haven’t had that adult conversation from the senator from the Fifth District. You should talk to some of the other people who participated in that focus group because they did have a mature discussion and we came up with something that was very well done, I believe, and it was on some very sensitive subjects.

I just want to say for those who are curious about what is in those standards, go look at them. Look at them in context of the standards we started with and you be the judge of whether or not we achieved the objective of being politically neutral or accurate. I believe we achieved that goal.

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Thu, 06/14/2018 - 9:33am

I'd be willing to give Sen. Colbeck a little, if he'd promise that he'll never, ever try to teach writing to anyone.

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 1:47pm

'For example, they would sit there and promote Islam to the exclusion of any other religion; they would promote LGBT rights to the exclusion of religious conscience; they would promote progressive policies to the exclusion of conservative policies. I didn’t think that was right.'

Perhaps Mr. Colbeck could cite (with links) the 'evidence' of his charges. He's fine with Kristian Sharia but doesn't understand freedom of religion and freedom FROM religion in our Constitution. One has to wonder if he's even read The Constitution. Free speech, etc. - doesn't exist as far as he's concerned.

William Bock
Thu, 06/14/2018 - 10:13am

Senator Colbeck,
After reading the transcript of your speech, I come to only one conclusion. Please don't dismiss this comment as more name-calling by a liberal, but you are just not very smart. That is, you display a lack of intelligence that makes me worried that you are a state senator. You are in no way qualified to be governor of Michigan. You are, sir, inarticulate and dumb. Please find another profession.

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 7:40am

Mr. Bock, you call, Senator Colbeck, "inarticulate and dumb," because you don't agree with his statements. He is an aerospace engineer, hardly "dumb" from my understanding of that profession. When you resort to name calling, you've lost the argument.

Charles Todd
Thu, 06/14/2018 - 5:07pm

Anyone who does not know the difference between democratic and Democratic should not be near any body of work that has the duty to decide what schools should be teaching.

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 7:54am

Mr. Todd, anyone who doesn't understand the difference between a constitutional republic and a democracy also needs to reflect on their ability to teach a government or social studies class to our MI students. Putting the committee's criticisms in perspective is imperative, if you wish to be fair to Senator Colbeck and the committee's efforts to make the standards accurate and politically neutral.

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 7:44pm

There is no difference between a constitutional republic and a democracy. A constitutional republic is a government by *elected* officials with separation of powers, and it is therefore a democracy.
"A representative democracy, where the right of election is well secured and regulated & the exercise of the legislative, executive and judiciary authorities, is vested in select persons, chosen really and not nominally by the people, will in my opinion be most likely to be happy, regular and durable."
— Alexander Hamilton

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 7:29pm

The beneficiary of political changes will generally claim them to be non political....

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 10:13pm

Insane. Reality and history is not “politically balanced”. Why on earth should that be the standard.

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 8:41am

There was no mention of the specific changes the candidate proposed to change . All he talks about is that he wanted a less progressive world view taught with less mention of those things he finds objective as a conservative candidate . I get no actual read on what he stands for .

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 7:36am

Thank you, Senator Colbeck, for taking the time and effort to offer your suggestions to the committee. I read some of your concerns in 2015 and agreed with them. We want a politically neutral and balanced social studies standard for our schools and students here in MI.

Shirley A Lowrey
Fri, 06/29/2018 - 3:32pm

Maybe you should read the proposed standards, as I have. These little neutral about them, indeed, there's much rightwashing. I find the change in references to the KKK bad and untrue, if half truths are actually lies. There are many more.

But, read it for yourself. It's freely available here on the internet.

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 7:05pm

I am amazed that you represent Canton - it is one of the most diverse areas I have lived in. And I like it this way. You on the other hand want to eliminate any diverse beliefs other than your own. Are you trying to make us the laughing stock of our country?? We need to move forward, teach what is true and proven and advance with the world - not fall behind because you and your cronies want to eliminate anything that goes against your personal beliefs - not for the growth of us as a people.

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 8:32pm

"A lot of people dealing with the complete opposite side of the worldview from me appreciated the discussion because we did have an adult conversation."

Good to hear. Name 1 of them.

(sound of crickets chirping)

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 2:53pm

Wait a minute... Why is a former aerospace engineer and senator making decisions on Social Studies curriculum? Is there no one to head said committee with either a social studies or educational development background? He isn't qualified or trained correctly to handle curriculum, and those kinds of qualifications DO matter in education.
My bigger wonder is, how many on the committee actually were?