By Sen. Patrick Colbeck
7th Senate District
What are the core values of America? After all, we are called the “United” States of America for a reason. What unites us? Are we united by merely a geographic boundary or are we united by something that transcends boundaries?
This is a very important question. After all, we do not seem to be very united nowadays.
For over a year, I was engaged in a focus group sponsored by the Michigan Department of Education tasked with defining our next generation of social studies standards for K-12 education in our state. My participation in this exercise was solicited as a result of a letter I wrote to the department in response to their first attempt at crafting these standards. In this letter, co-signed by seventeen of my legislative colleagues, I cited fifteen issues that needed to be reconciled before I could support these standards. All that I asked was that the standards were politically neutral and accurate. These objectives were adopted by the focus group.
I am pleased to report that at the end of our focus group deliberations, we did indeed reach compromises on all fifteen issues. However, we failed to reach agreement on one issue that surfaced during the discussions. What was that issue? The definition of our core values.
In the wake of our deliberations, I took to social media to ask our citizens what they believed were our core values. There was no consensus there either.
So why is it so difficult for us to define our core values? Our values today are very diverse. Perhaps the first step should be to define what makes a value a “core” value. It would seem to be self-evident that for a value to be a “core” value, it would need to be a value shared by the majority of Americans. Sounds simple enough.
How do we know if a value is shared by the majority of Americans? I would submit that the values would need to be documented in a social compact that binds all Americans. We have only two such compacts throughout our history — the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Of the two documents, I would submit that the Declaration of Independence is a statement of our core values while the Constitution is a statement as to how we would structure our government to promote these values.
So what are the core values found in the Declaration of Independence?
- We are all created equal;
- We have unalienable rights endowed to us by our Creator;
- Government authority comes from the consent of the governed;
- It is the duty of the people to oppose government abuse of authority; and
- Purpose of government is to secure the rights of the governed.
Some people may think that the importance I have placed upon the need for a quality civics education is less pressing than other matters, such as the state budget or economic development policies. In light of the importance of unity to the strength of the United States of America, I would submit that civics is of paramount importance. Our enemies, and we have many, would like nothing better than to divide us. Regrettably, we have taken our unity for granted for too many years. It is time to rededicate ourselves and our nation to the need for unity by affirming these core values. Once we do, we will once again earn the title of the UNITED States of America, which is truly exceptional in all the world.
Sen. Patrick Colbeck represents the 7th Senate District, which encompasses the cities of Livonia, Northville, Plymouth and Wayne, as well as the townships of Canton, Northville and Plymouth.