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Criminal Justice & Legal System

'Patriot Week' could be required in Michigan's public schools

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Michigan's history and social studies teachers may be required to include specific topics for an annual "Patriot Week."

The Senate this week passed a trio of bills that would require public schools to focus on the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents for one week every year.

The legislation would also forbid what it calls censorship of the documents by teachers, referring specifically to omission of religious references in the founding documents.

Western Michigan University Professor of Education Gary Miron is troubled by the proposals.

"So I'm wondering with this patriotic week and this strict micro-managing of what teachers are to teach in this area, if then teachers who might speak critically of the Constitution or some of its weaknesses might fall into trouble," Miron says.

"It suggests this distrust of teachers. I think this legislation is in part based on a misguided belief that our teachers are intentionally hurting or depriving our students."

Miron also feels the law would discourage critical thinking among students.

"As a history teacher who used to teach the Constitution, I didn't perhaps always teach it in a very patriotic way," Miron says. "The Constitution is a phenomenal document, but if we look at it, half our population was disenfranchised: Women, blacks and people who didn't own property who couldn't vote.

"Most modern democracies have since revised and updated their constitutions and have, I  think, better models to go on today than our 220-year-old Constitution. It's a great opportunity to teach our students to be thoughtful about our government, and about improvements we've made over the years so they'll also be good citizens and ask the right questions."

Miron says it's not clear who would enforce the law among teachers who don't teach the Constitution "correctly" as envisioned by lawmakers.

Senate Bills 120, 121 and 423 now move to the House.