This week Michigan Senator Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) introduced a set of bills to in part, prevent “censorship of our founding documents” (SB 120). While that can be dismissed as the usual hot air of political posturing, the other bills are more substantive, one (SB 423)
establishes requirements for schools to incorporate teaching provisions of the U.S. Constitution, the Michigan state constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and would require the Michigan Department of Education to incorporate those subjects into standardized testing of students.
The fundamental problem here is the elevation of the Declaration of Independence as a core document of this nation. While one can appreciate the desire of those social conservatives to elevate the Declaration (particularly the bit about inalienable rights being endowed by the Creator…. not that conservatives have an especially good grasp on the concept of “inalienable”), for the purposes of understanding our actual government, it is the Constitution that rules. And if one is to have a mandated test, then that Constitution ought to be front and center.
Yet even a cursory review reveals what’s missing: the total absence of any of the great national documents regarding African-Americans. Well, yes, in politeness, they did leave off the bit about slaves being worth only 3/5 a vote in the original Constitution, but where is the insistence that children of this state learn about the Emancipation Proclamation? Or the Lincoln’s great Second Inaugural. Or for that matter, the Gettysburg Address? For a party that once championed, bled and died for these great truths, this is a peculiar omission.
An omission less surprising, given the origin of this measure in the southern social conservative community.