Governor Kristi Noem imported her Trumpist laugh line about the need to fight Communism through better civics education into her State of the State speech yesterday. Speaking mostly to her national Fox audience, Noem said we need to fix our stupid liberal teachers’ wagons and teach our kids to be real patriots:
Students should be taught our nation’s history and all that makes America unique. They should see first-hand the importance of civic engagement. And they should have robust discussions in the classroom so they can develop critical thinking skills.
Our young people need more experience engaging with elected officials and practicing the art of debate. It is also our responsibility to show them how government works.
I have tasked my administration with creating instructional materials and classroom resources on America’s founding, our nation’s history, and the state’s history. We must also do a better job educating teachers on these three subjects. Through all of this, our common mission and key objective needs to be explaining why the United States of America is the most special nation in the history of the world [Gov. Kristi Noem, State of the State speech, as prepared for delivery, 2021.01.12].
She then ignored our universities, where students can get the kind of well-rounded liberal education that will save democracy from knuckleheaded insurrection, and turned immediately to promoting our technical schools, which technical focus is exactly what has crowded civics education out of the curriculum.
Noem also ignored and, frankly, insulted the efforts of K-12 teachers who have strived mightily to maintain civics education in the midst of South Dakota state government’s long-standing campaign against education in the humanities. Sioux Falls School Board President Cynthia Mickelson responds to that insult with this defense of our K-12 teachers:
Anyone who is worried about history/civics instruction should 1st visit @SFSchools and 2nd take the 8th grade semester tests and see how they score against our students. Then we can talk [link].
This narrative is not new and I stand behind my comments. My majors were history and political science and I have a law degree [link].
Our team and all educators have been put through the wringer and to now pile on them and say they are indoctrinating their students and not doing a good job is inexcusable… [link]
I would like to thank SD teachers/admin/staff (pre-school & k-12) as well as day care providers who have helped keep SD open with in person offerings. Without you, parents/guardians could not go their job. Sometimes we forget those who support the infrastructure of our economy [Cynthia Mickelson, tweets, 2021.01.12].
That’s exactly the kind of civic engagement, robust discussion, and critical thinking Governor Noem says she wants, right?
But Noem’s proposed curriculum doesn’t sound like any of those things. It sounds like a propaganda package to indoctrinate students into her particular point of view. She didn’t even critically think it up herself; she’s just cribbing the faux flag-waving her Beltway advisors’ cousins put in Trump’s mouth last year. We saw how much Trump cares about patriotic critical thinking when he incited the insurrection with bald-faced lies. From a Governor who has tried to criminalize protest and spends more time reaching for the national spotlight instead of engaging local reporters and constituents, we can’t expect much better.
We need more local officials like Mickelson to speak up against Noem’s empty, harmful rhetoric against our teachers and demonstrate the real, robust civics education our schools provide.