A motivational speaker, an educational technologist, and a social justice warrior against sex-trafficking walk into a bar… and Kristi Noem calls it a conference.
How does Governor Kristi Noem respond to the Legislature’s charge that she’s not doing enough to improve academic achievement? By encouraging kids and teachers to skip school for a day and come to the hyrda-headed conference she’s throwing together in Sioux Falls!
“South Dakota Leads” happens Monday, December 9, at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. According to Governor Noem, it is a student conference to “energize students to amplify the power they have to make a difference.”
But it’s also an educator conference to “encourage and motivate administrators, counselors, teachers, and school leaders at all levels” and remind them “of the power they hold to influence students’ lives.”
But it’s also a women’s conference to “empower women to lead in their communities” and hear “community and state organizations… share about their missions and share information on how people can get involved.”
All three of these subconferences get talks from Utahn motivational speaker Clint Pulver, a Nebraskan sex-trafficking resistance group called The Set Me Free Project, and Microsoft. Governor Noem will speak at the end of the women’s conference at 5:50 p.m. Other speakers remain TBA.
It’s tough to figure out where to begin a critique of this proposed tri-conference because Governor Noem is having a tough time explaining what the conference is about.
I suppose we could take some hilarity from the fact that in a state which doesn’t require sex education and has high STD rates to prove it, we’re o.k. with our Governor hosting a conference to tell kids how to avoid being lured into sex slavery.
I suppose we could chuckle at Governor Noem’s idea that teachers should take a day of school and drive to Sioux Falls for one large-group presentation on “Addressing Classroom Challenges with [Microsoft] Technology” when Microsoft will provide that same training and much, much more to schools for free, in person or online, at much more convenience to our time- and cash-strapped schools districts.
I suppose we could sympathize with (not chuckle at, for they deserve no mockery) the teachers and chaperones who will be asked by the kids on the bus, “Hey, this conference we’re going to—what’s it about?” and will struggle to come up with a satisfactory explanation. (My recommendation: end with, “But hey, when we’re done, we’re having lunch at the food court in the mall!” That was all I needed to hear to justify a bus trip to Sioux Falls.)
Good lessons start out with meaningful and measurable objectives. Where are those objectives in the Governor’s tri-conference? Governor Noem’s December 9 event looks like an excuse to cobble together a bunch of ideas from different aides and agencies (the Department of Education and the Department of Social Services are the official tri-conference partners) that weren’t big enough to justify an event of their own.
If the Government Operations and Audit Committee is serious about overseeing the Department of Education, it should start by finding out who came up with this conference, how much the speakers are being paid, and whether taxpayers are footing the bill.