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Mickelson Schools Noem on Real Civics Education

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.

Here’s how:

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:

Cynthia Mickelson, tweets, 2021.01.12.
Cynthia Mickelson, tweets, 2021.01.12.

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.

28 Comments

  1. DaveFN 2021-01-13

    PragerU and Ben Shapiro videos are Noem’s kinda place.

  2. Richard Schriever 2021-01-13

    Yep. In Trumplandia, down is up and up is down.

  3. Richard Schriever 2021-01-13

    And as to Prager – here’s a little anecdote from my California days that will tell you all you need to know about him. On his at that time local radio program that I listened to occasionally way back in the ’90s, he promoted a sort of “Get to know a nice Jewish person” monthly dinner/dating party sort of thing. It was almost like a match-making service. He specifically requested that people with advanced degrees, of all religious stripe, send him an request to attend and also the $100 please. So – being single and on the prowl, I did. He did cash the check – but I never heard back from him about dinner.

    True Trumpist con man to the core.

  4. Bill 2021-01-13

    Gov. Kristi Noem needs a new speech writer and a review of her course in high school economics. Clearly she lacks understanding of the terms “capitalism,” “socialism,” “communism,” and “mixed economic systems. Mickelson is right on. In my experience universities are much like newspapers and television news, there is a mixture of liberal and conservative slants.

  5. Terry Sullivan 2021-01-13

    Your comment that technical colleges with their technical focus has crowded civics education out of the curriculum can’t go unheeded. Education curricula can and shoud provide for both subject matters. One needs only to look at the Nation at Risk report published in 1983 that set back vocational-technical education curriculum from then on and every year thereafter. Gone in many school districts were the two hour blocks of time dedicated to vocational courses in favor of a more rigorous academic curriculum which included a stronger 3 credit Social Studies requirement. The fact that technical education is now highly touted is a tribute to its will and strong need to survive.

  6. mike from iowa 2021-01-13

    Critical thinking in alternative facts won’t get you very far. Magats all need re-education in how Democracy works, especially our elections and then they need remedial Sesame Street lessons in how to play nice and be gracious LOSERS!

  7. Jake 2021-01-13

    Amen, MFI, especially the last sentence of your comment!

  8. Mark Anderson 2021-01-13

    Kristi is just shortening the education of youngsters. Her education would only take a couple of years since she’s leaving out so much. Getting into a good college might be a problem for South Dakotan’s but there’s always Oral Roberts. No, I’m not going to do an Oral Robert’s joke, it’s just always good to get God in there too.

  9. mike from iowa 2021-01-13

    This civics lesson bulloney is likely another ALEC designed model legislation plot to make lower wage workers forego liberal arts classes where higher wages abound. Civics taught wrong is bad for kid’s brains.

  10. Whitless 2021-01-13

    A long-existing and still effective bait to attract conservatives is the false assertion that students are being indoctrinated in the classroom to be liberals, or even worse, socialists and communists. I recall similar hysterical claims from the 1960s that educators were failing to teach students the “real history” of the United States.

    Noem claims students need to learn the art of debate and to have robust discussions, but her words do not match up with her actions. Noem avoids answering questions and engaging in discussion except for the friendly softballs pitched by conservative media.

    Having manufactured a problem, Noem’s solution is especially troubling. In her authoritarian style, she has tasked her “administration with creating instructional materials and classroom resources on America’s founding, our nation’s history, and the state’s history.” We don’t need state government creating “instructional materials and classroom materials” for our public schools. Noem’s proposal smacks of the centralized government indoctrination that exists in communist and authoritarian states. Let local public schools continue to choose the curriculum for students and the methods for instruction.

  11. Buckobear 2021-01-13

    How ‘bout we start by getting Howard Zinn’s “A Peoples History of the United States” included as a textbook?

  12. Jason 2021-01-13

    This is demoralizing to educators who have had the courage to teach the hard history of this nation. Teaching during a pandemic is hard enough. Being pressured by the head of state to hide the horrific history of the U.S. is censorship.

  13. Joe 2021-01-13

    I encourage everyone to follow Boston College US history professor Heather Cox Richardson’s “Letters From an American” posts on Substack and/or Facebook. She’s brilliant, funny, and approachable. Plus, a good chunk of her research and writing focused on Natives and the American West.

    https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/heathercoxrichardson

    Heather also does twice-weekly live FB chats on US history and politics. (Tue./Thu.) These are archived on her FB page and on Youtube.

  14. Jake 2021-01-13

    Noem and whatever Republican legislators that follow her down this rabbit trail are simply paving the way for their authoritarian impulses. She doesn’t trust the citizens of SD to vote ‘right’ on marijuana so she uses our own money to sue us for voting in favor. She won’t listen to medical and health professionals concerning wearing masks. She refuses to wear one even in areas where they are required, I ask any of her supporters “where is it written in law that she is a law unto herself/”

  15. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-01-13

    Noem does an annual State of the Hate speech, right?

    Solution:

    We, the Citizens, post annual Real State of the State messages from every city and town of South Dakota a DAY before Noem gives her talk. Do it by Zoom, post it on YouTube.

    We can be inspired!

  16. Donald Pay 2021-01-13

    Yes, Whitless is right. When districts adopt a curriculum they have a committee of teachers, administrators, parents and community members. They go through various materials, look at the standards adopted by the state. They recommend several options and then the district provides a public comment peroid. Then the school board conducts a meeting where recommended curriculum is discussed and voted on. Just having a bunch of Noem flunkies meeting in some sex dungeon to concoct a civics curriculum is the height of tyranny and stupidity. If civics, history and whatever else Noem is trying to hijack is so important, it should run through regular channels where, you know, civics actually happens.

  17. Darrell Solberg 2021-01-13

    Oh My Gosh, another example of incompetence!!! I wonder what the teachers that she berated think? All of this coming from someone who took how long to make it through college? Did she get a degree and if so what was it in? Another misstep by her that makes South Dakota once again the laughing stock of America. It is time that she addresses her complete lack of leadership regarding the Coronavirus and do her job for the people of South Dakota. So far she hasn’t demonstrated to me or many others that she is capable of governing!!

  18. Moses6 2021-01-13

    Hey Kristi My dad was a democrat who fought fascists from the Normandy battle to Berlin, trying to get rid of Hitler..I served during the Vietnam era,.The elected candidates from Georgia are not communist.Why didnt you wear the uniform and then tell me about democracy.

  19. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2021-01-13

    I find this struggle between Mickelson and Noem to be fascinating. It was only a few years ago when Board President Mickelson’s husband, Mark, proactively defended Noem concerning the border adjustable tax (BAT) in a statewide letter writing campaign. But I guess the Mickelsons are no longer interested in going to BAT for Trumpians like Noem. It’s a sign of the developing divisions within the GOP in a hopefully post-Trump era. Like Cheney voting for impeachment, Mickelson’s comments demonstrate an attempt by establishment Republicans to reclaim their party. Such a division also affords Democrats an opportunity in this state, and it will be interesting to see if they seize it.

  20. Bob Newland 2021-01-13

    Just because Mickelson might appear to be on the right side of something, don’t forget he was a prime architect of the destruction of the initiative/referendum process in SoDak.

  21. MaryD 2021-01-13

    Mickelson’s answer was priceless. I would bet Noem would not be able to pass an 8th grade test on anything. Our teachers went above and beyond the call of duty and worked many overtime hours getting lessons ready to be sent to students and took personal questions from students and never ever wavered from their dedication to teaching during this pandemic. Shame on Noem for picking on the very backbone of our country which is a free education for all kids. Education is set on the local level and she needs to keep her fingers out of it.

  22. V 2021-01-13

    Let’s remember that with No Child Left Behind, the Social Sciences curriculum was rewritten. In South Dakota for example, 8th grade included U.S. history, economics, and politics, and ditched the geography. I’m still wondering if they ever put those standards back in. I believe this is when civics disappeared.
    The Social Sciences are exempt from the yearly high stakes test, and it’s because the standards are so complex that the powers that be in Pierre can’t understand them. Ironically enough, few or no teachers are on these state boards for curriculum development, at least here in S.D. And we do not follow the National Standards for the Social Sciences.
    There are so many subjects within the S. S. that all students should take but if they are not tested, it seems unimportant or even unnecessary. That’s why I had to bat off all the coaches that wanted my job. Easy to find a sub, you just stick in a video.
    When I attended graduate school in Brookings for geography, I met so many highly qualified teachers K-12. Through the geography alliance, we attacked the state curriculum and offered to align it to the national standards for no cost, however Rounds wasn’t interested.
    I’d like to see Noem substitute teach for a day, or better yet, a week. Put her in High School U.S. History and stream line it on Fox News.

  23. Dave McFarland 2021-01-14

    Once again, the irony of Kristi Noem suggesting the need for better civics education (indoctrination) is remarkable because virtually no one else in a position of political influence has demonstrated such gross incompetence in the area of civics literacy. Her call for students to be nurtured according to her jaundiced view of politics reminds me of Karl Mundt’s campaign over 60 years ago for a “freedom academy” that would indoctrinate young Americans in the ways of patriotism and the dangers of Communism. She has become a 21st Century oracle of an ideology that is not only obsolete, but dangerous. The saddest aspect of this is that, unlike the Michelle Bachmann and Joe McCarthy, she cloaks her ignorant rhetoric in deceptively benign language.

  24. Donald Pay 2021-01-18

    What good is civics if what you learn isn’t used? When I was on the RC school board, I rarely got any input from students. The exception was when we were mulling over whether to cut orchestra. Then I heard students through several calls, but mostly it was their parents who put up the fuss. Of course, I’d get my daughter to tell me her opinions of various issues. Banning spaghetti straps in the dress code in the high school handbook was one where her comment was “Jesus, Daddy, don’t you guys on the school board do anything on real issues like, you know, education?” She informed me that girls would wear them anyway.

    At any rate, I really would have valued input from students. So, if we really want students to learn civics, maybe we need to encourage them to participate more to influence the institution that is most important to them. We had student board members that were non-voting. They were great students, and they did pipe up at times, but it was easy to ignore them because they didn’t get to vote. Maybe they should get a vote. Maybe students should elect a board member of their own. Maybe they should be able to propose an initiative measure that is voted on by their schools that has to be addressed by the school board. There are so many ways to get students interested in civics, but we don’t do it. Why?

  25. grudznick 2021-01-18

    Gentlemen, this is a dangly bead put out there by the legislatures to keep you all frothing at a meaningless topic instead of keeping your eye on where the real ball is. It is but a game of “3-card-libbie”, as those in the legislatures call it. Keep your eye on the right card, and do not be distracted by the dangly beads. Mark down grudznick’s words now on your blackboards, or tattoo them on the webbing between your thumb and forefinger like many of your students do.

    But grudznick has this righter than right. Mark it down, I shall browbeat you about it later.

  26. M 2021-01-19

    The public education system in South Dakota needs reforming but that will never happen when teachers, students and parents are not involved. Most decisions are made without their input, from the top down. Why?

    Example: The school board and administration for a public school on the reservation decided to switch to a 4 day week. The community members, parents, students, and teachers were overwhelming against it. Lots of reasons why. They did it anyway and had problems for many years. It was not a fit for the community so they finally voted in the right school members, and hired admin that agreed and switched back 2 years ago.

    After 11 years of a schedule that didn’t work, we figure that some students lost 1 year of education, not to mention all the other programs and services and meals that they missed.

    Noem mentioned overhauling the standards before so I don’t believe she’ll even follow through with this new threat. She’s addressing a national audience, those gun totting red necks, indoctrinated idiots, and voucher seeking parents that she’s encouraging to move to South Dakota.

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