The South Dakota Board of Education adopted new standards for world language yesterday. In a sign of their significance, this standards review process drew one public comment:
I would like to see cross-disciplinary standards with the Lakota language and more emphasis on our Lakota/Dakota language. The Dakota’s are our homes and these languages have been spoken here for generations. We have ELA and Technology standards across the disciplines, I would suggest we also add Lakota/Dakota standards. I am concerned that there is very little if any mention of Lakota/Dakota or Indigenous languages. We are speaking about being global citizens but haven’t even concentrated on being local citizens yet to the people who live here homelands. The State can be extremely beneficial to language revitalization efforts and help save near extinct languages. It would benefit all students-Native and non and help build bridges between our cultures and assist in diffusing cultural conflicts [Ray Taken Alive, computer/technology teacher, McLaughlin School, comment submitted to world language standards workgroup, South Dakota Department of Education, 2018.09.11].
The standards workgroup responded that the state just can’t require any local district to teach any specific world language, even one spoken by natives of this state:
The World Language standards are not specific to any one language; however, the work group did incorporate language and examples that would be representative of all South Dakota students, including Lakota/Dakota, and American Sign Language.
Because South Dakota is a local control state, each district determines the world language offering for students; therefore, neither the work group nor the state control those decisions. Based on the workgroup’s review of the public comment, it was determined that no changes would be made to the proposed standards document.
Also important to note would be the Department of Education’s partnership with Tribal Leaders and South Dakota Educators to create the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings. The Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and their related resource documents include standards, activities, teaching resources, and sample cross-disciplinary lesson plans to provide support for understanding and teaching Oceti Sakowin culture, oral traditions, and history in South Dakota schools. These Essential Understandings may provide a resource to support what is requested in the comment in Exhibit #1 [emphasis in original; world language standards workgroup response to public comment, 2019.03.18].
Perhaps Mr. Taken Alive should have emphasized the civics angle of his call for more Lakota language learning in our schools. Training South Dakotans to speak with each other in a Native language would do more to enhance civic dialogue and participation than the trivial quizzes and “Good Job!” stickers on Governor Noem’s failed civics education agenda.
The world language standards revolve around the 5 Cs: Communications, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities.
The adopted standards do not mention the word grammar. They do mention teaching students to “Communicate and interact in the language with respect and cultural competence in both local and global communities” and “Set lifelong learning goals and reflect on progress in using the language for enjoyment, enrichment, enhancement, and advocacy.”