In Michigan, Conservatives Don't Want Students Learning About Democracy

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Patrick Colbeck (R): calling the nation a democracy is not “politically neutral and accurate.”

Michigan conservatives have revised state standards to drop “democratic” from the term “core democratic values.” The word “democracy” was also reduced according to The New York Times. This comes after a group of Michigan conservatives questioned whether the term “republic” is better than “democracy” to describe America’s government.

In the debate of republic vs. democracy, the Republicans tend to favor the word “republic” and the Democrats “democracy,” as the words resemble their party names.

The conservative group also argued that social studies in Kindergarten through grade 12 should be based on an originalist reading of the U.S. founding documents. The group said the curriculum should focus more on the nation’s triumphs and focus less on its sins, and they proposed eliminating “climate change,” “Roe v. Wade” and references to gay civil rights from the curriculum.

The state has now brought a larger group of Michigan people into the process of redrafting the standards. The new standards will be presented on April 9 to the State Board of Education, which will then vote on whether to adopt the document.

Every state can create its own learning standards. Teachers can teach material not included in the standards, but they do dictate the content of standardized tests. Therefore, teachers rely on the standards as they teach their students so the students can pass the tests.

The Michigan conservatives who are vying for “constitutional republic” to be used instead of democracy say they are arguing for historical reasons, not partisan ones.

“When you read Article IV, Section IV, it says you’re guaranteed a republican form of government,” said Patrick Colbeck, a former Republican state senator, citing the U.S. Constitution.

Mainstream historians, political scientists and other legal scholars now say that the U.S. is both a representative democracy and a republic. They believe there is not a contradiction between the two terms.

As defined by The New York Times, “A democracy is government by the people, who may rule either directly or indirectly, through elected representatives. A republic is a form of government in which the people’s elected representatives make decisions.”

Some political processes in the U.S. are more democratic, such as the Electoral College.

The state education agency asked for volunteers to rewrite the standards for the third time in five years. 116 people were elected and placed on subcommittees to address every area of the document. Roe v. Wade, climate change, and gay rights were all restored.

After months of debate, the group decided the core values could still be called “democratic.” The core values include “equality; liberty; justice and fairness; unalienable individual rights (including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness); consent of governed; truth; common good.”

Colbeck said calling the nation a democracy was not “politically neutral and accurate.”

The plan will be introduced across Michigan in “listen and learn” meetings conducted by education officials.

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