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HB 1087: “Intellectual Diversity” Bill Mandates Civics Courses and Test for All Regental Students

When is a bill on “intellectual diversity” not really about diversity? When Republicans promote it.

House Bill 1087 purports to “promote intellectual diversity at certain institutions of higher learning.” The South Dakota Board of Regents already has policies supporting intellectual diversity and academic freedom, not to mention the First Amendment. Yet just as extremist right-wing Representative Kaleb Weis feels the need to attack public school teachers with unnecessary legislation, HB 1087’s right-wing Republican House sponsors—Sue Peterson, Speaker Haugaard, and Majority Leader Qualm—feel the need for another bill that misbrands public universities as anti-free-speech ogres.

Speaking of free speech, let us not forget that Speaker Haugaard just lost a lawsuit (that will cost taxpayers money) because he booted a woman from the House floor for exercising her First Amendment rights.

For all their prattlings about free speech, the sponsors really don’t plow any ground not already covered by Regental policy on free speech. Like last year’s alt-right wedge bill, HB 1087 just creates more paperwork for universities to document their respect for the First Amendment (a respect better established and practiced than Speaker Haugaard’s, but does he have to write a report? No!).

Section 10 exceeds last year’s silly alt-right shield bill by requiring the Regents to offer equal employment opportunity “without discrimination based on intellectual diversity.” Since HB 1087 lightly defines “intellectual diversity” as encouraging “a variety of ideological and political perspectives,” Section 10 appears to require our public universities to offer jobs to avowed Stalinists, Nazis, climate science deniers, adherents to orgone and phlogiston theories, and other people who bring intellectual diversity by being flat wrong.

But then HB 1087 forgets where it started and tacks on a civics requirement. Section 11 requires every Regental undergrad to take three credits of U.S. history and three credits of U.S. government to graduate.

Pause there—even tech-focused School of Mines requires its future engineers and geologists to take six credits in social sciences to “understand the organization, potential, and diversity of the human community….” U.S. History (HIST 151 or 152) and American Government (POLS 100) are among a dozen courses offered toward this general education goal. Cultural anthropology, geography, international relations, psychology, courtship and marriage—within this single requirement, Mines offers more intellectual diversity that the intellectual diversity bill, which prescribes that every student take the same two courses.

Section 12 goes similarly civics bonkers, requiring that every Regental undergrad take a civics test to graduate. Like Governor Noem, HB 1087’s sponsors would borrow the USCIS Civics Test. Like Governor Noem, HB 1087’s sponsors provide no funding for the test and refuse to let the Regents charge to recoup the expense of administering the test. One-upping (or fifteen-upping?) Governor Noem, HB 1087 Section 12 would require college students to answer 85% of the questions correctly. (Don’t worry, students: Section 12 lets you take the test as often as you want, and in pieces, so you could memorize five answers at a time and come in and answer a new five each week.)

So HB 1087 wants intellectual diversity, but it’s going to make everyone take the same classes and the same test. Sections 11 and 12 promote the opposite of intellectual diversity. South Dakota Constitution Article 3 Section 21 says “No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” HB 1087 is thus unconstitutional.

Some Republicans can’t even write bills right, let alone grasp true intellectual diversity and the First Amendment. Let’s keep the Legislature out of our classrooms: kill House Bill 1087 and let the Regents handle providing diverse learning experiences for our undergraduates.

18 Comments

  1. Donald Pay 2019-01-30

    I used to call bills like this “butt-wipe bills.” These are just meant to encourage people to the toilet, where there may be a couple puffs of air and maybe a shart or two, not a great big dump, as envisioned in the bill. Shart taken, the bill has served its purpose and can now be used for a paper check and flushed.

    Maybe this is being introduced on behalf of some university department, maybe poly sci or government or law, that needs a little boost. Maybe it’s just a little pay back from the humanities for all the stress on STEM over Daugaard’s term.

    I can’t wait to see this bowel movement.

  2. Debbo 2019-01-30

    I think at least part of its purpose is so the Wrong won’t feel *picked on.

    *arguing with them and pointing out their errors of logic is “picking on” them.

  3. Porter Lansing 2019-01-30

    Reminds me of all the classes I tested out of during freshman, first semester.

  4. David Newquist 2019-01-30

    While schools of all levels are kept under scrutiny and criticized for student outcomes, one of the biggest obstacles they have faced is the political intrusion, particularly from right-wingers who contend that an absence of free speech and diversity exists when the schools are not indoctrinating students with right-wing cant. The charge of liberal bias stems largely because the concept of academic freedom is a liberal doctrine, in the classic liberal sense. The bills being proposed regarding curriculum are the canaries in the coal mine, signaling that toxic gas is present. The bill authors have no idea what schools are doing or what policies and regulations are in place to insure freedom and integrity of practice.

    School boards and college boards of directors were at one time a safeguard against the perversion of the curriculum by political contamination. Their members were citizens who knew something about education and whose main function was to serve as a conduit of information between the public and the professional staffs. In recent decades such boards have recast themselves as corporate boards of directors who can issue orders rather than public servants charged with overseeing and acting as moderators in order to maintain the integrity of the educational enterprise. They are no longer a safeguard against foolish tampering or devious intrusion.

    As for academic freedom in state universities of South Dakota, here is the binding collective bargaining agreement put in place 40 years ago:

    “The parties agree and declare that academic freedom is guaranteed to faculty unit members subject only to accepted standards of professional responsibility including, but not limited to, those herein set forth:
    1. The parties to this agreement recognize and accept the importance of academic freedom to teaching and learning. Academic freedom includes the right to study, discuss, investigate, teach and publish. Academic freedom applies to both teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of students to freedom in learning. It includes the freedom to perform one’s professional duties and to present differing and sometimes controversial points of view, free from reprisal. The faculty unit member is entitled to freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the performing of other assigned academic duties.
    2. Faculty unit members are entitled to freedom in the discussion and presentation of their subject and are privileged to introduce various scholarly views. Further, they may provide counsel and recommendation in the administration’s determination of class size and matters of classroom space.
    3. The concept of freedom is accompanied by an equally demanding concept of responsibility. The faculty unit members are members of a learned profession. When they speak or write as citizens, they must be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As learned people and as educators, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence, they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should indicate that they are speaking only for themselves.
    This provision is intended to guarantee those rights which are recognized as flowing from the first amendment to the United States Constitution.

  5. Michael L. Wyland 2019-01-30

    I’m of two minds about the bill. Yes, it’s micromanaging interference and it adds graduation requirements targeted to a specific discipline (I’m lumping together US history and US government here, especially since “civics education” is the stated goal, as expressed by the citizenship test requirement).

    On the other hand, two things stand out: 1) it’s appalling that many (some might say most) college-degreed individuals lack basic civics knowledge, and hyper-specialization of majors at the expense of traditional liberal arts education is one culprit; and 2) the Board of Regents fumbled an opportunity to reassure legislators after “freedom of expression on public university campuses” legislation was defeated last year. As I heard it, the BoR issued a 44-page letter response that essentially said things are just fine as they are. Not surprisingly, those who believe that a problem exists wouldn’t be satisfied with a “we’re OK, nothing to see here” response.

  6. o 2019-01-30

    A civics/citizenship test for high school students, a civics/citizenship test for college students, are the tech schools waiting for a third shoe to drop?

  7. Buckobear 2019-01-30

    How ’bout every student over 21 be automatically registered to vote?? How ’bout every registered voter be required to present a receipt proving that they voted in the last election prior to graduation ??

  8. Roger Cornelius 2019-01-30

    Buckobear
    The national legal voting age is 18.
    I do agree that anyone that any resident of this state that is eligible can register and vote on election day.

  9. Donald Pay 2019-01-30

    The authors of this bill could benefit from a civics course which includes a reading of the SD Constitution. The bill includes multiple subjects and violates the one subject clause.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-01-31

    Alas, Donald, it’s not just some experiment or local diversion. It’s part of a national effort (and Pat Powers regularly links their propaganda in his stories on this issue, as if their propaganda makes their movement real news) to cast aspersions on higher education and push the Trumpist line that universities are bad places and that experts are not to be trusted.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-01-31

    David, thanks for posting that academic freedom provision. Interesting that provision exists thanks to collective bargaining. No wonder Mickelson wanted to get rid of collective bargaining…

    …speaking of which, my quick text search of the bills and subjects suggests there are no bills targeting collective bargaining this year. There are no bills strengthening unions, but none leap out as attacking labor rights. (And Brock Greenfield even has that nice little SB 120, which would reduce non-compete clause maxima from two years to one! Yay, Brock!)

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-01-31

    Michael, I’ll see your second mind on your subpoint 1 and raise you some of my cerebrum. I got to my eighth semester at SDSU and realized no one at university had made me read any Shakespeare yet. That didn’t seem right. I spent my eighth and ninth semesters loading up on lit classes—I read King Lear with Mary O’Connor, “Great Day in the Cows House” by Donald Hall and other modern American poetry with David Allan Evans, and O Pioneers! and Love Medicine with Mary Haug. My understanding of the beauty, purpose, and techniques of literature was immensely improved by those readings and the discussions led by those outstanding instructors. So was my understanding of life.

    (Take nothing in literature as accident, said Mary Haug. Assume intent in every word.)

    Every student seeking a baccalaureate degree in the English-speaking world should have to read Shakespeare.

    I took a variety of philosophy and religion classes at SDSU. In my eighth semester, I finally got around to taking a philosophy class offered by David Nelson. He was in many ways the antithesis of SDSU’s archetypal professor, Rodney Bell. Where Dr. Bell came to class every day sharply dressed and organized, pulling out lecture notes, and holding forth brilliantly, Dr. Nelson was the Socratic rebel, the open anti-establishmentarian, mocking the formalities of the university… but every bit as great a teacher as Dr. Bell. Dr. Nelson expressed immense disappointment when, after all my resistance to relativism, I expressed the conventional notion that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. He suggested that beauty must exist as objectively and absolutely as truth to matter. Even as I muddled through the distraction of flirting with both of the beautiful girls who sat next to me (and failing to pay attention to the curly-haired scholar farther to my right who would, eight years later, agree to marry me after three months of dating), that admonition stuck with me.

    David Nelson also led us through reading every word of Black Elk Speaks. The idea of “the hoop”—our worldview—stuck with me vividly. The worst thing that can happen to a people is the breaking of their hoop. That happened to Black Elk and his people as they saw bad men grow fat while good men went lean.

    I read a chapter of Black Elk again eight years later, in Newton Hills State Park, with that curly-haired girl, on our first outing, to which we and out mutual friend brought books to read. Nine months later, David Nelson read from the Bible at our wedding and pronounced the word “delicious” deliciously as a benediction to our union.

    I might require every college student to take a philosophy class. I really want to require every college student to take a class with a professor as awesome as David Nelson.

    Our Regental institutions appear to strike a reasonable balance, requiring a certain number of core courses to pass on some shared portion of a vast human culture that no one student, professor, or curriculum can contain, but granting to students the leeway to choose aspects within those fields that interest them most. Literature of the American West instead of Shakespeare? I’d prefer both and, but o.k. A course on economics or cultural anthropology instead of government? No problem—all are fascinating studies that will profit an inquisitive mind. The subject is less important than the teacher, the great teacher who provokes and demands questions, critical thinking, connection-making, and introspection.

    Put in every classroom a teacher who can lead students to draw discoveries about themselves, the world, and their place in it from any subject, humanities or sciences, and I don’t really give a darn what classes kids take: after four years of such tutelage, they will emerge better citizens, workers, and human beings.

    Darn few of our legislators are capable of doing such good for students. Legislature, stay the heck out of the classroom. Keep your hands off our professors.

  13. Donald Pay 2019-01-31

    Dr. Nelson was involved in many environmental issues when I was active. I was in a number of meetings with him on various issues. One of his philosophy students (whose name escapes me) ended up as an environmental lobbyists for the South Dakota Resources Coalition and the Surface Mining Initiative Fund.

    Academic freedom was not always the case in South Dakota institutions of higher learning. It got pretty dicey during the Oahe Irrigation Project fight, when a number of professors were harassed out of their jobs or hassled for their questioning of the various economic, soil drainage and environmental impacts of the project. South Dakota had a very bad reputation at that time. There was intense pressure from Pierre on College (at that time) Presidents to clamp down on Profs who strayed from the Pierre line in support of the project.

  14. Debbo 2019-01-31

    Cory, I can’t let you sing the praises of your professor Nelson without mentioning Drs. Heinrich and Juhl in grad school. Both were profs of New Testament and delighted in challenging their students. Dr. Heinrich led us into examining a concept when she responded to a question with, “I wonder…” inviting us all to wonder together.
    Dr. Juhl was more directly challenging. “If A, then how can B?” Both were my advisors. I had to switch when Dr. Juhl decided he would take Princeton’s offer.
    They were all about the students working out issues for ourselves with them as guides and directors sharing their wisdom and experience. There were several profs like that. It was a wonderful learning and growing experience.

    I miss the intellectual challenges and rigor. I can tell that you do too.

  15. Bill Poppen 2019-02-01

    Thanks for pointing out that this is part of a concerted effort by a national conservative group. As you said, kill this bill and keep legislators and governors out of the classroom.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-02

    Donald, if I had been paying attention to something other than girls in the early 1990s, I might have noticed those environmental efforts by Dr. Nelson and come to help. Ah, when we were young and silly… amazing we’re able to learn anything at university.

  17. Korey V. Jackson 2019-02-08

    After listening to the opposition to HB 1087 voiced by the South Dakota Board of Regents and the South Dakota Student Association representatives at the House Education Committee hearing on 6 Feb, I believe this Bill deserves to be killed.

    (note: the hearing can be heard at http://sdpb.sd.gov/SDPBPodcast/2019/hed18.mp3, with the opposition portion beginning at about the 30 minute mark.)

    With a son at SDSU, and my wife and I both SDSU alumni (hard science degrees), we agree with the Student Association and the Board of Regents: this is an unfunded mandate on South Dakota universities, and the additional hardships of adding 6 credit hours of requirements to students (both financially and in time). I just don’t see how professional degree curriculums can absorb an additional 6 credit hour requirement.

    While we applaud the goals of education diversity, and strongly support free speech, should our registered nurses, civil engineers, and other professionally-certified career fields really sacrifice 6 credit hours of professional courses for additional history and civics courses — courses which should already have their solid foundation in primary and secondary education.

    Why legislate that all South Dakota 4-year college students must take additional history and government courses? While over 90% of South Dakotans do graduate high school, only about 1 out of 4 go on to graduate from a 4-year college. If the objective is to develop better educated voters, what about the 73% of South Dakotans that do not attain a 4-year degree?

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