Got a beef with Michigan’s social studies standards? Help rewrite them

Public outcry over what appeared to be conservative-leaning changes to Michigan’s public school history books has delayed the update to state social studies standards. State education leaders are now looking for help to tweak the proposed standards. (Bridge photo by Ron French)

Michigan is looking for help to review controversial changes to proposed social studies standards.

But if you want to volunteer, do it quickly: the deadline is Wednesday.

The offer comes in the wake of public outcry over deletions of gay rights, Roe v. Wade and climate change and the diminishment of civil rights history from standards for classes from kindergarten through 12th grade. The proposed standards also delete the word “democratic” from the phrase “core democratic values.”

The education department is looking for a task force of about 100 people, divided into six subgroups for different grade ranges and topics, as well as a bias review team. Each subcommittee will be chaired by two of the original social studies authors to maintain continuity in the process, according to an MDE news release.

Michigan residents have until Wednesday to complete an online application. Then, the education department will select task force members based on educational background, teaching experience, ethnic/cultural diversity, and geographic diversity.   In addition to social studies educators, school administrators and academicians, the task force will include students, teachers, parents, and community members.

The task force will weigh feedback the department received in public hearings over the past five months and in more than 4,000 online comments on proposed social studies standards.  

The goal of the department is to have changes to the proposed standards completed by the end of the year.

Bridge Magazine first revealed the proposed revisions in June, advanced by conservative newcomers to a focus group discussing revisions. The proposals quickly garnered national attention.

Michigan’s social studies standards were last changed in 2007. The education department has been working to revise them for four years.

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Marie kung
Mon, 10/01/2018 - 10:32am

Who made these changes and under what authority?

Ben W. Washburn
Mon, 10/01/2018 - 6:14pm

Ms. Kung:
The State Board is lawfully empowered to establish these kinds of guidelines. They are expected to use reasonable efforts to review and improve their guidelines, and that is what they have tried to do with a past series of public meetings and input-gathering. There is a wide spectrum of opinion in our state about this issue, so it should be of no surprise that there is some controversy about where these hearings may be leading.
I don't know that there is any surefire way of bringing everyone together on the issue. I just hope that they do the best that they can do.

Ben W. Washburn
Mon, 10/01/2018 - 6:07pm

Thanks for publishing this important story. I read the Detroit Free Press every day, but totally missed any mention that the State Department of Education was taking a second (or is this a third or fourth) look at this issue. As a result, I've signed-up as a possible participant, but it is always difficult to organize this kind of review and to get a credible array of input. Kudos, then not only to you, but to the State Board as well.

Ms Shorter
Tue, 10/02/2018 - 6:53pm

Where did these focus groups meet? How were they selected? Was there representation from the Hispanic and African American communities?

Where do I sign up to volunteer for this committee? I’d be interested