This first appeared in the Northern Express here


“Identify the individuals whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu.” (Texas Social Studies Standard 113.44.c.1.C)

“Examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed its free exercise by saying that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and compare and contrast this to the phrase, ‘separation of church and state.’” (Texas Social Studies Standard 113.44.c.7.G)

Yes, folks, in Texas students are taught that Moses was essentially a founding father. Apparently there is also room to contrast the very clear language of the First Amendment with some ambiguous (and worthy of enclosing in quotations) idea propagated by heathen liberals called “separation of church and state.”

Outrageous, laughable, embarrassing, and real. This is the same school board that proposed the slave trade be renamed Atlantic Triangular Trade, and that proposed Barack Obama not be listed as the 44th President in textbooks. In the end, they agreed to include Obama’s name only if it was printed as Barack Hussein Obama. (Because, you know, racism.)

In Louisiana, creationism can be taught as an alternative to evolution. Maybe I should repeat that. In Louisiana, creationism can be taught as an alternative to evolution.

Why do intellectual abominations in Louisiana and Texas matter to us in northern Michigan? Because unless we do our job as citizens, that same level of mis-education will be foisted upon our students in the coming years. Thanks to gubernatorial candidate Patrick Colbeck, years of hard work by teachers and consultants to revise Michigan’s Social Studies Standards will be turned into another branch of the Republican propaganda machine.

Colbeck is an interesting character. He was so inspired by the idea that any fool can become president, he decided to run for governor in Michigan. Bridge Magazine published a recent exchange with Colbeck in a June 13 article “Michigan Sen. Patrick Colbeck attacks ‘inanncurate’ reporting on social studies role” that showed Colbeck believed the “core democratic values” taught in social studies classes promoted the Democratic Party. No really. He did. Bridge reported:

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.”

Among the entourage that Colbeck brought unannounced to a meeting on standards was a lawyer from the Thomas More Law Center. Never heard of it? I wish that was true for all of us. Here’s an excerpt from its mission statement: “The mission of the Thomas More Law Center is to: Preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage; Defend the religious freedom of Christians; Restore time-honored moral and family values; Protect the sanctity of human life.” Sounds like just the people we want influencing our public education.

While the Thomas More Law Center hypocritically claims to be defending the Constitution, its members take pick-axes to the wall that separates church and state. Oh, and guess what disappeared from the Michigan Social Studies standards after these radical zealots got their say? If you said “Any reference to Roe vs Wade,” you win today’s grand prize. So teachers are no longer required to teach about one of the most important Supreme Court cases of the 20th century.

It absolutely doesn’t matter what you think about abortion. What matters is that the chance to have students learn about this controversial case has been severely limited.

The Progressive Era apparently also has Colbeck’s conservative tighty-whities in a wad. This period, at the start of the 20th century, paved the way for the United States to get closer to the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. National parks, food and drug protections, child labor laws, workplace safety laws, women’s suffrage, anti-corruption laws, housing safety laws — they all gave us hope that our country could live up to its mandate to “promote the general welfare.” (Before you pass out in rage, my loyal Tea Party readers, that’s from the Preamble of your sacred but rarely read, United States Constitution.)

Colbeck wants schools to focus more on the negatives of the Progressive Era and less on references to the “common good” that he feels have ruined our country. Meanwhile, I’m thinking of assigning an essay next semester entitled “Explain the negative consequences of too many children living past 15 years old with all their limbs intact.”

The list of other intellectually dishonest proposals put forth by Colbeck and his minions is too long to address here. You can find them explained at Bridge Magazine’s website. More importantly, you need to express your concerns about Michigan becoming the next Texas or Louisiana. I’ll be at the final public comment meeting in Sault Ste. Marie on June 26 to express my objections to Colbeck’s changes and offer positive suggestions to the committee on how to protect our Core Demo … er … Core Values.

Join me: 6pm–8 pm June 26 at Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District, 315 Armory Place, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

You can read more of Mark Pontoni’s thoughts on education, politics, sports, and family at

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