Michigan Sen. Patrick Colbeck attacks ‘inaccurate’ reporting on social studies role

The campaign of state Sen. Patrick Colbeck lashed out at Bridge Magazine on Wednesday for its reporting on his role in revising state social studies standards.

Sept. 21 update: A final meeting, and Michigan’s social studies standards head for a rewrite​
July 23 update: Six more meetings set on controversial Michigan social studies standards
June 20 update: Crowds growing to protest changes to Michigan social studies standards

The gubernatorial campaign of Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton Twp., issued a news release Wednesday accusing Bridge Magazine of misleading and inaccurate reporting in an article on his involvement on a committee that is revising social studies standards for Michigan schools. You can read that article, published Tuesday, here.

Below is the full text of the Colbeck campaign’s release, titled, “Colbeck Calls Out Publication for Misleading and Inaccurate Reporting,” along with Bridge’s response to its central claims. Neither Colbeck nor his campaign contacted Bridge directly after the article was published to request any corrections, or to express their views on Bridge’s reporting.

Here is the text of the news release, with Bridge’s responses in gray at pertinent points. Bridge Magazine stands by its reporting.

Patrick Colbeck called out Bridge Magazine for its inaccurate portrayal of his role on a focus group reviewing Michigan’s social studies standards in the school curriculum.  The article is entitled “History Gets a Conservative Twist in Michigan Social Studies Standards” and was written by Lindsey Van Huille and Paul French.

The Bridge reporters on the story are named Lindsay VanHulle and Ron French.

“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. In fact, many of those with diametrically opposed views expressed true appreciation for the substantive, professional discussion on sensitive discussions. 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," said Colbeck.

The article quotes five people who served on the standards committee or in a supervisory role with the Michigan Department of Education. None are quoted disparaging Colbeck or his work. Rebecca Baker-Bush, a social studies consultant with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District who served on the standards committee and who is also president of the Michigan Council on the Social Studies, is quoted saying Colbeck was “obviously an advocate for a certain partisan viewpoint … But he was very willing to listen to others.” The article also states, “Despite the number of conservatives on the committee, education department officials and committee members who spoke to Bridge said they felt debates about the standards were balanced.”

The article portrays Colbeck as the primary ringleader on the focus group which was formed in 2017 to review changes to Michigan’s social studies curriculum. The Michigan Department of Education asked Colbeck to participate after he, with the support of 17 legislators, presented a 13 page memo on where they thought the social studies curriculum needed more balanced scrutiny. He was not given any more authority than any other member on the panel.

The article makes no mention of Colbeck as ringleader of the group. It states that Linda Forward of the Michigan Department of Education asked Colbeck to participate. The article does not state Colbeck was given more authority than other members; it does say he and other conservatives had “influence” on some of the changes, which Colbeck acknowledged to Bridge.

Second, the article states that Colbeck invited outside individuals sharing his viewpoint without the knowledge of the Michigan Department of Education. Senator Colbeck did ask MDE if he was welcome to invite other individuals and they said yes. These individuals participated in no more than 3 of the meetings  and did not control the panel, as the article suggests.

Education department officials told Bridge that Colbeck invited others to join the group, as Colbeck states and which was confirmed by two people invited by Colbeck. But officials say they were unaware that the additional individuals had been invited until those individuals showed up at a meeting. The article does not state that conservatives controlled the panel, but it does report that conservatives influenced some of the revisions, as the article explains in detail.

Third, the article suggests that Colbeck and Colbeck alone removed references to the Ku Klux Klan and other civil rights issues. The KKK references are still in the standards and Colbeck had no such role of authority as the panel was a focus group comprised of 21 members.

The article does not say Colbeck alone was responsible for removing Ku Klux Klan or civil rights references. References to the KKK are decreased from two to one in the standards. The original version of the article said the sole remaining reference to the KKK was as an optional example; the article was updated with the correct total Wednesday morning, before Colbeck’s press release. The article states that most of the suggestions made by Colbeck in his 13-page memo were ignored by the committee, which indicates Colbeck could not make changes on his own.

Additionally, the article is presented as a news report but instead contains phrases that suggest commentary such as  “soft-pedaling that the Ku Klux Klan”  and “cadre of conservatives.” Part of the article portends to give Colbeck a civics lesson, such as “the d-word in ‘core democratic values’ pertains to America’s system of democracy, not to the Democratic Party. Core democratic values generally include fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

In his 13-page memo to the State  Board of Education, Colbeck wrote, “the assertion that Progressivism was a response to the civil rights infractions of the KKK denies that fact that it was often the advocates of so-called progressive policies who supported the KKK. The KKK was founded as an anti-Republican organization not an anti-black organization. It just so happened that the majority of Southern blacks were in fact Republican due to the strong anti-slavery stance of Republicans. In fact, of the 4,743 lynchings between 1882 and 1964, 3,446 were blacks and 1,297 were whites.”

Colbeck, an aerospace engineer by training who has spent years on his own studying the Constitution, wasn’t referring to political party as the reporters incorrectly assumed. 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.”

Colbeck told Bridge the following in a recorded interview at the Mackinac Policy Conference in May: “They had this term in there called ‘core democratic values. I said, ‘Whatever we come up with has to be politically neutral, and it has to be accurate.’ I said, ‘First of all, core democratic values (is) not politically neutral.’ I'm not proposing core republican values, either.” In a subsequent telephone interview, Colbeck repeated the same thinking almost word-for-word: “It’s not politically neutral …. It’s got the word Democrat in there, and like I said, I didn’t pursue the word Republican for the same reason.”

“It is disappointing when members of the media can’t put aside their world view when doing their jobs. This is why the public has lost trust in mainstream reporters who act as neutral observers but instead use their pulpits to portray a particular narrative, often one promoting progressive values and this needs to stop,” said Colbeck.

Reporting for this article was based on reviews of state education records, and interviews with educators, state officials and four of the five conservative members participating in the focus group.

Bridge’s mission is to provide in-depth, data-driven, fact-driven, nonpartisan, professional journalism we can produce on issues of high importance to Michigan’s future.

We respect every candidate of every political party who makes the personal sacrifice to run for public office. We intend no disrespect to Sen. Colbeck. To this point in 2018, Bridge has critically analyzed and reported on every Republican and Democratic candidate for governor. At some point this year, supporters of every single one of those gubernatorial campaigns have not liked Bridge’s news coverage of their favored candidate.

We respect Bridge readers’ ability and right to draw their own conclusions about our published coverage.

Colbeck proudly calls himself conservative as a legislator and candidate for governor.  He believes education should be put back into the hands of teachers, parents and students and not governed by a top down approach in which a few individuals determine what children should learn.

Like what you’re reading in Bridge? Please consider a donation to support our work!

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Comments

Matthew Linden
Wed, 06/13/2018 - 9:21pm

Colbeck "believes education should be put back into the hands of teachers, parents and students and not governed by a top down approach in which a few individuals determine what children should learn."

Then why was he even allowed to participate in this focus group?

Peter
Wed, 06/13/2018 - 11:26pm

Good point. And why would he even have wanted to participate in the focus group? I guess he wanted to be one of those few individuals. But let's hold him to the idea that he wants to put education back into the hands of teachers!

Laura Vogel
Thu, 06/14/2018 - 8:59am

Doh!

Eric
Wed, 06/13/2018 - 10:55pm

Usually, when Republicans complain about media bias, what they're really complaining about is unbiased media, because reporting the facts will almost always make Republicans look bad.

Here, this is clearly the case.

Agnosticrat
Thu, 06/14/2018 - 6:55am

Mr Colbeck's lawyers statement would have us believe he is merely a follower rather than a leader.
Not the guy in front of the crowd making questionable changes... Merely someone among the crowd.
Don't we have enough of that in Lansing?

Art
Thu, 06/14/2018 - 8:22am

So education should be in the hands of educators? Why was Colbeck on the committee?

Kevin Grand
Thu, 06/14/2018 - 1:52pm

"Reporting for this article was based on reviews of state education records, and interviews with educators, state officials and four of the five conservative members participating in the focus group.

Bridge’s mission is to provide in-depth, data-driven, fact-driven, nonpartisan, professional journalism we can produce on issues of high importance to Michigan’s future."

Sadly, Mr. French & Ms. VanHulle's piece conspicuously "overlooked" including significant pieces of information ( known to most people as facts and data), specifically the proposed Michigan BoE Social Study and Science standards along with Sen. Colbeck's suggested revisions for the readers to compare and contrast for themselves.

Just in case anyone is curious as to what they really look like, the links are below.

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/SS_COMBINED_August_2015_496557_7.pdf

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/K-12_Science_Performance_Expectat...

http://www.senatorpatrickcolbeck.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/New-Stan...

http://www.senatorpatrickcolbeck.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Proposed...

Since there is no by-line on this particular piece, I don't have anyone specific to direct the other problems with your response. So in no particular order.

"But officials say they were unaware that the additional individuals had been invited until those individuals showed up at a meeting. "

Why should this even be an issue regarding a public meeting relating to public education standards?

Does the BoE now need people to RSVP their intentions to attend the meetings in Flint, Cadillac, Saginaw, Waterford & Ste. Saint Marie?

"The article does not say Colbeck alone was responsible for removing Ku Klux Klan or civil rights references. References to the KKK are decreased from two to one in the standards. The original version of the article said the sole remaining reference to the KKK was as an optional example; the article was updated with the correct total Wednesday morning, before Colbeck’s press release."

This may come as another shock to those eagerly promoting the Post-Modernism educational philosophy, but there is only so much time that the schools have to educate students on subjects like Social Studies, much less everything else they'll need to learn before graduating. The Bridge even indirectly acknowledged this itself when it reported on the criminally low reading and math scores in certain school districts here in Michigan.

The reduction, not elimination, of areas like the NAACP & KKK reminds me of a (heated) argument I had earlier with someone who was promoting mandating teaching American Students about genocides in foreign countries (look up PA 170 of 2016 & SB 1060 of 2018/HB 5255 of 2017 for specifics).

I asked them what they could tell me about Camp Sumter & Camp Douglas along with the Trail of Tears. Not only did their eyes glaze over because they had absolutely no clue what I was referring to, but I got called every name in the book by this "tolerant & enlightened" individual for even suggesting that should take precedence over their suggestion.

Not that dissimilar to the ire (and worse) directed at Sen. Colbeck by certain Bridge Readers.

"Rebecca Baker-Bush, a social studies consultant with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District who served on the standards committee and who is also president of the Michigan Council on the Social Studies, is quoted saying Colbeck was “obviously an advocate for a certain partisan viewpoint … But he was very willing to listen to others.”

Actually, it wasn't very partisan at all.

Relating to the proposed Social Studies standards, Sen. Colbeck stated that the information meet three specific criteria: Accuracy, Political neutrality and Age-appropriate educational value.

Go read it for yourself:

http://www.senatorpatrickcolbeck.com/education/standards-social-studies-...

It's one thing to go directly to the source material and refute it with facts. Sen. Colbeck included that in his recommendation. I see no reason why Mr. French & Ms. VanHulle couldn't have done the same with their piece earlier this week.

The Bridge gets points for issuing a timely mea culpa. But to interject a Post-Modernistic spin on something and attempt to pass it off as news, that only calls your objectivity into question.

Traci Welch
Fri, 06/15/2018 - 10:31am

I participated (and still am participating in a class preparing teachers for teaching the new social studies standard on genocide. It is not just about teaching "genocide in foreign countries"; we had a whole section in the class this fall on teaching about genocide in our own country against the Native Americans. And as far as the KKK of the early 1900s goes, anybody who knows their history, knows that the resurgence of the KKK (after the film "Birth of a Nation" was released) was because they didn't like the changes going on in our country. It was not anti-Republican; it was not going after a particular political group, but ANYONE who was different than white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS). This included blacks, Jews, Catholics, Eastern Europeans, Asians and communists (because not only did Birth of Nation rile everyone up, so did all of the immigrants coming into our country and the Communist Revolution in Russia). And as far as Sen. Colbeck's views on "democracy" vs. "republic" goes, he is being political. He is correct that we are a republic; but that does not mean we are not democratic. We are not a direct democracy (as in ancient Athens). Democratic principles have to do with what our founding fathers put into our Constitution and Bill of Rights; they are not exclusive to the Democratic party (hence the lower case "d"!).

Mindy Thill
Fri, 06/15/2018 - 5:54pm

Kevin Grand
Perhaps I'm confused, but the Bridge article I read dated June 12 about this issue did have a link to the source of the Michigan K-12 Social Studies Standards and the proposed changes. The link stated, "Key changes to social studies standards: You can read proposed changes to Michigan’s K-12 social studies standards here. Words proposed for deletion are struck through, and words proposed for addition are in CAPITAL LETTERS." I used that very link to begin reading through them. Is this the omission wrote of in your comment?

Kevin Grand
Mon, 06/25/2018 - 9:27am

Ms. Thill,

We might be talking about the same thing.

The Bridge made a few changes to their original story.

When this story was first posted, I didn't recall seeing the link to what the group Sen Colbeck was with suggested.

That made a big difference to the story.

Stefan
Thu, 06/14/2018 - 3:08pm

Colbeck's mission is skewed as a participant in this committee. According to Bridge, his expertise is the self-study of the constitution, not education. His motives are politically driven as he had invited his own cronies to participate, without informing the committee to leverage support and proposed changes to the state-wide curriculum. Leave education to the educators; and focus your energies on political career and your gubernatorial aspirations! Good luck Sen. Colbeck!

Todd
Thu, 06/14/2018 - 4:12pm

Colbeck does not want to put education back into the hands of educators. In a Wayne Westland forum he told the crowd that nobody is guaranteed an education. That he knows the troubles that teachers go through because “he was a teacher at Space Camp”.

He’s a slime ball and has personally corrected me that we live in a republic, not a democracy.

He supports open carry with no ccl even in churches AND SCHOOLS.

Can also be seen posing for pictures with white supremacists.

Ally
Tue, 07/24/2018 - 8:54am

Which would explain his dogged insistence on the misinformation about the KKK.

Anthony Salciccioli
Thu, 06/14/2018 - 9:41pm

Patrick Colbeck is most certainly the ringleader. He is a disciple of David Barton's Wall Builder organization that attempts to rewrite history with a pro-Christian and pro-conservative perspective.

Dave
Sun, 06/17/2018 - 6:56pm

How dare anyone accuse Sen Colbeck of leadership? He has been stripped by his own party of all committee assignments, let alone leadership positions and trails badly in the polls for Governor. He does appeal to a small group at the extreme right wing of the Republican party, but by definition the man is far from conservative and has very few followers. He wrote an column for my local paper talking about how Michigan spends too much per mile of roadway, and using Arizona for an example of what our costs should be (An Aerospace engineer who cant figure out the effect of freeze thaw on road beds? No wonder his resume reads like that of a man who can't keep a job). He states that climate science is "not settled", but does not state what would settle it. I suspect that if you use the same standard he would like to, the issue of weather the earth is round or flat is not settled either. Colbeck is anything but a leader.

Lee Griffin
Thu, 06/14/2018 - 10:18pm

I would like to ask Mr. Colbeck this question, and I hope he answers:

You say you have studied the Constitution on your own. What sources have you studied? If they are mostly tracts published by far-right political groups, we can safely assume you have a highly biased, easily-dismissed view of the Constitution. On the other hand, if have you read widely those books and articles published by real historians and Constitutional scholars whose research has been honed by advanced graduate work and peer-reviewed scholarship, and whose work has earned prestigious prizes in the field, I would consider you a bit of an authority on the Constitution. Are your beliefs informed by real scholarship, or by the echo chamber?

Dr. Richard Zeile
Mon, 06/18/2018 - 10:57am

The following document-
https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Item_B_PPT_Social_Studies_488849_... ,
presented to the State Board of Education earlier in the process shows on page 10 that the Southern Poverty Law Center influenced the proposed state social studies standards. Why has the media not called attention to left-wing, outstate influence on our education policy?

Steven Norton
Wed, 06/20/2018 - 11:17am

The Southern Poverty Law Center is an organization with a long history of providing legal support to the victims of racism and other forms of discrimination, especially in the Southern US. (https://www.splcenter.org/about-us/our-history) It has long called attention to the activities of the KKK and other racist/"hate" groups which not only undermine our most fundamental laws but also put people's lives in danger. I have long been a supporter of the SPLC and their efforts to end the legacy of slavery, legal racism, and hatred. Why aren't you?

If the SPLC made suggestions to the previous iteration of the standards, I imagine they were worth considering. From what I have read, it appears that changes made in response to their input were quite limited. Sen. Colbeck's changes, in contrast, make basic errors in the meaning of words like "democracy" and "republic" and go on to insist on a warped view of American history. They undermine the teaching of social studies in Michigan schools rather than improve it. I am at a loss to understand how they survived any meaningful review by subject matter experts and wonder if they were, in fact, subject to such a review.

CMeyer
Fri, 06/29/2018 - 5:52pm

I was at Senator Colbeck's office hours on Friday, April 20th at the Livonia Senior Center. At the meeting he mentioned being part of the standard review and specifically mentioned not wanting the phrase "core democratic values" used because of the middle word. He said nothing about being a republic. His staff video records these sessions.

Charles Gibson
Sun, 08/12/2018 - 12:08pm

"He (Colbeck) believes education should be put back into the hands of teachers, parents and students and not governed by a top down approach in which a few individuals determine what children should learn. " However, it is obvious that Colbeck wants his own ultra far-right political views to dictate what is added to and eliminated from Michigan's social studies curriculum. In essence, his ideas and agenda are aligned with one of the main tenets of the fascist Trump administration: The promotion and propagation of ignorance . For an ignorant population is one that is more pliable, agreeable, and easily lead.