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Opponents are the only ones who show up for a hearing on new state social studies standards

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Opponents of changes to Michigan social studies curriculum were out in force at a public hearing Monday in Flint.

High school teachers, college professors, students and others turned out for the hearing.  

All were opposed to dropping references to the KKK, climate change and even the word “democratic” in the proposed updated curriculum. No one spoke in favor of the changes favored by Republican state senator, and GOP candidate for governor, Patrick Colbeck.

Colbeck was asked by the Michigan Department of Education to take part in a focus group reviewing proposed changes to the curriculum. The last major revision took place a decade ago. 

Many at last night’s public hearing in Flint were outraged that a senior state lawmaker was given the opportunity to propose changes to an academic curriculum developed by experts. And apparently succeeded in doing so. 

Speaking to a panel of education department officials, former educator Harold Ford expressed concern that the senator’s voice will carry more weight than opponents.

“How can you assure me that my feedback and the feedback of others here is going to have any impact in this process?” Ford asked. 

The State Board of Education meets in August. The four Democrats on the eight-member board are expected to block any effort to approve the proposed changes.

Dr. Pamela Pugh is a member of the state Board of Education. She does not expect the controversial proposal will even come up at the board’s August meeting.

“I don’t think we’ll be in a rush to vote on this on [August 14tth],” Pugh said after the hearing. “We do want to continue to hear from citizens. There’s a lot of work to do.”

Several more public hearings on the curriculum changes are scheduled. The Department of Education is also taking public comment online through the end of the month. 

If the Board of Education does not act, the social studies curriculum standards created in 2007 will remain in place. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.