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Noem Claims Regents Are Restricting Critical Race Theory; Regents’ Statement Doesn’t Say That

Yesterday Governor Kristi Noem tooted her own horn for coercing the Board of Regents into approving a draft policy “restricting the teaching of Critical Race Theory at state colleges and universities.” For their part, the Regents trotted out their newest members, all Republican toadies appointed in April, to croak for whatever anti-anti-racist propaganda Noem is pushing:

The board’s statement frames its position around four central tenets: (1) offering opportunity for all students; (2) proudly supporting the United States of America; (3) safeguarding the rich tradition of American universities; and (4) offering curriculum based upon widely held and accepted knowledge and thought.

The statement recognizes the importance of teaching public university students in South Dakota about America’s history, the system of individual liberty in a democratic republic, and the free enterprise system. “Part of that instruction is to acknowledge and discuss America’s flaws and mistakes, so that we can learn from them and improve,” it says. “Critical Race Theory is not the basis for instruction in our state universities and it’s not going to be. But this is a label that means different things to different people,” said Regent Tony Venhuizen. “That’s why our board today is taking a step back and stating the American values that will continue to guide the university system.”

“We are committed to programs that enhance a wide ranging knowledge of American government and its traditions,” said Regent Jeff Partridge. “As part of that, we are prepared to offer new opportunities for students to increase their civic engagement and develop skills in communication, critical thinking, civility, and dispute resolution.”

Regents recognize that South Dakota’s public universities are part of the rich tradition of American universities, a tradition built upon free speech, scientific discovery, and academic freedom. “As our students expand their understanding in a field of study, we encourage that students be exposed to a variety of viewpoints, ideas, and theories, so that they can be debated and critiqued,” the statement says [South Dakota Board of Regents, press release, 2021.08.05].

Wait a minute: even the toadies seem to be croaking out of tune with Queen Frog. Noem and her merry fascists are saying they are going to “ban” critical race theory. But Venhuizen, the smartest of this warty bunch, suggests there’s nothing to ban, that our universities are not basing and will not base their instruction on critical race theory. Noem’s former chief of staff speaks as if the universities’ status quo has been following “American values” just fine all along. Former legislator Partridge doesn’t mention critical race theory; his statement about the universities’ commitment to enhancing “a wide-ranging knowledge of American government and its traditions” seems to call for exactly the opposite of what Noem says she’s about; as a matter of fact, critical race theory seeks exactly what Partridge describes: critical thinking about the traditions of racism that have built systemic discrimination into our laws and institutions, with the goal of improving communication and helping resolve disputes and make American government better.

And the new draft policy itself never mentions critical race theory. It wallows in some dismissive “All Lives Matter” racism—responding to concerns of systemic racism with bland declarations of colorblind support for every individual deliberately misses the point, devalues valid critiques of genuine discrimination, and thus perpetuates the problem—it engages in greater contortions to avoid saying exactly what Noem wants us to think it says about the hobbyhorse she wants to ride into the 2024 election. Let’s read each of the four points of the Regents’ statement:

1. South Dakota’s state universities offer opportunity for all students, to benefit from education and to prepare to live and work in South Dakota, or anywhere in the world. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, religion, disability, veteran status, economic status, or sexual preference. We treat each person as an individual, not as a member of a group, and offer services and supports for each person’s individual situation. We reject, and will not promote, the idea that any individual person is responsible for actions taken by other people. We also reject, and will not promote, any suggestion that one group of people is inherently superior or inferior to another group, or is inherently oppressive or immoral [South Dakota Board of Regents, “Opportunity for All” statement, approved 2021.08.05].

Critical race theory does not make claims about individuals, other than to grant that individuals choose their own membership in social categories and belief systems regardless of identities that outsiders may attempt to impose on them. Critical race theory can’t promote any notion of one racial group’s inherent superiority, inferiority, immorality, or penchant for oppression, because critical race theory holds that race is not inherent, not biological, not essential, but a social construct. Critical race theory actually responds to those who adopted such fallacious racial essentialism and who therethrough baked racism into our legal system. So on this first point, the Regents’ statement is right in line with critical race theory.

2. South Dakota’s state universities are public, taxpayer-funded institutions. It is inherent in the missions of our universities to proudly support the United States of America. Our students will learn about America’s history, our system of individual liberty in a democratic republic, and our system of free enterprise. Part of that instruction is to acknowledge and discuss America’s flaws and mistakes, so that we can learn from them and improve. We celebrate, though, America’s role in recent world history, as the nation most responsible for expanding liberty, prosperity, and equality across the globe [SDBOR, 2021.08.05].

The Regents aver that our professors will lead students to “acknowledge and discuss America’s flaws and mistakes, so that we can learn from them and improve.” That’s exactly what Noem herself did  last month when she talked about the need to learn from our nation’s racist mistakes in its Indian boarding school policies. That’s exactly what critical race theory calls on us to do.

3. South Dakota’s state universities are a part of the rich tradition of American universities, which are built upon free speech, scientific discovery, and academic freedom, and for that reason have been emulated by the rest of the world. We commit our state universities to a focus on the future: preparing the leaders and scholars of the next generation to solve the problems of tomorrow. Although we can learn from and understand the past, we do this so we can learn to be better in the future, and we will never compel any person to accept any particular set of beliefs [SDBOR, 2021.08.05].

Now the Regents are really parrying Noem’s attack. They assert that “free speech” and “academic freedom” have made our universities global leaders. They reiterate the critical race theorist’s commitment to understanding and learning from the past “so we can learn to be better in the future.” And in speaking of never compelling anyone to accept any beliefs (yeah, sure, but if you don’t accept the beliefs like the Law of Large Numbers and the Central Limit Theorem, you’ll have a hard time passing Stats), they are actually rejecting any attempt the Governor and Legislature may make to impose their own ideological indoctrination. This third point thus opens the door for instructors to make critical race theory central to discussions of history, law, and social justice and protects them from authoritarian attempts to infringe on their academic freedom.

South Dakota’s state universities will offer a curriculum that is based upon widely-held and accepted knowledge and thought. Our universities will respect academic freedom, and will expect faculty to exercise that freedom in a way that respects this expectation. As our students expand their understanding in a field of study, we encourage that students be exposed to a variety of viewpoints, ideas, and theories, so that they can be debated and critiqued. This could include discredited or controversial ideas, because understanding the weaknesses of failed ideas is as important as understanding the strengths of successful ones. Students must be prepared to identify the good and bad in new or controversial areas of thought [SDBOR, 2021.08.05].

Again invoking academic freedom, the Regents affirm the obvious, that university curriculum is based on “widely held and accepted knowledge and ideas.” If our young students’ beliefs are any indication, critical race theory is evidently widely held and (thankfully) informing their views about racism in America. But even if we skip that vague criterion of “widely held and accepted” as critical race theory’s automatic ticket to the curriculum, the Regents say the “controversy” over critical race theory qualifies it for discussion. Never mind that the “controversy”  arises only because apartheidist Republicans have misappropriated a term they don’t understand to distract from their failures and oppressive designs. Students must understand controversial areas of thought; students thus must have opportunities to read and discuss critical race theory.

Governor Kristi Noem seems to think she got the Regents to ban critical race theory. The Regents planted words playing to her deliberate misconception of critical race theory at the top of their press release, and they had her most recent appointees say things that could be quickly read to support the Governor’s talking point. Yet they issued a formal statement that doesn’t mention critical race theory but is almost entirely consistent with the principles of critical race theory.

Seeing such apparent dissonance between what the Governor claims the Regents have done and what the Regents are actually saying, I can’t help but wonder if the Regents are trying to superficially placate the Governor’s fascist impulses while assuring South Dakotans who actually read that our universities will defend academic freedom and honest, non-partisan education, including, where appropriate, the valid and useful framework of critical race theory.

25 Comments

  1. Mark Anderson 2021-08-06

    Well Cory, its nice to see the regents take American liberalism as the standard. Critical Race Theory has never gotten more press, and it’s easy for students to look up its tenets. Of course we must thank Kristi and the trumpies for all that. What you have to watch for is high school teachers who are afraid to discuss anything upon fear of losing their jobs. A sanitized, disneyfied American history is not something you want. Trumpies want an American history that’s whitewashed, something they can believe in, not what really happened. We can’t make them feel bad can we?

  2. Korey Jackson 2021-08-06

    How can South Dakotans “create a more perfect and independent government” unless there is an educated and well-rounded discussion and healthy debate about what that means?

    What does “more perfect” mean if one does not thoughtfully identify areas that are not…perfect?
    ______________________________
    South Dakota Constitution
    PREAMBLE

    We, the people of South Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberties, in order to form a more perfect and independent government, establish justice, insure tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and preserve to ourselves and to our posterity the blessings of liberty, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the state of South Dakota.

  3. mike from iowa 2021-08-06

    More perfect in whitey speak means pastey white hides as far as the eye can see in magat land.

  4. O 2021-08-06

    How about this compromise: our educational institutions will not teach CRT as soon as our government removes all elements of institutional racism from its laws, policies, and practices.

    It must be new for Mr. Venhuizen being on the wrong side of gubernatorial raging.

  5. Arlo Blundt 2021-08-06

    Well..the Board of Regents, regardless of their political linage, is not about to issue a challenge to academic freedom…if that’s What the Governor wanted, she came up empty. The State Board of Education, with control over curriculum in Elementary and Secondary schools where academic freedom is much more fragile remains to be heard. There are probably 250 high school teachers of social studies and their talents, abilities, backgrounds and belief systems fall all along the continuum, yet, in my experience, the vast majority are committed to an even handed presentation of our history and civics. The problem being that for a century we have taught “History as told by the winners”. …There is a critical bias, as elucidated by Critical Race History, to side with those who ultimately prevailed, the white frontiersman, settler, military personage, in a Disneyfied narrative of “How the West Was Won.” Hopefully, as teachers seek to present a more balanced view of what was really a tragic, on going story of cultures in collision, their job security will not be threatened. Hopefully, the Department of Education will look to the leadership of the South Dakota Historical Society and call on it for guidance.

  6. Porter Lansing 2021-08-06

    CRT is a straw man. What MAGA’s can’t accept is teaching accurate and verifiable Black history.
    That’s because accurate and verifiable Black history makes white people feel guilty.
    Liberals can accept those feelings. MAGA’s can’t and invent a false definition, to hide the facts and protect their feelings.

  7. John 2021-08-06

    There’s no systemic racism in the northern US — unless you’re a real estate agent showing a house for sale in the middle of the afternoon. Most house for sale are empty shells with little to nothing to steal.
    It’s my wish that Mr. Thorne wins the civil lottery receiving millions from the city of Wyoming, MI and the neighbor that made a false report — and buys the home, then buys the complaining neighbor’s home at a sheriff sale mark down.

    Thank god that: a) none of the ‘watched too many ‘shoot ’em up cop videos’ didn’t shoot first; and b) at least one cop was so embarrassed he apologized and returned to eviscerate the racist reporting neighbors.

    No, the US does not need policy and education to confront and reverse 400 years of systemic racism. Dripping sarcasm. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/08/06/black-realtor-michigan-police-handcuffed/

  8. Donald Pay 2021-08-07

    The problem with the whiners is they don’t know what Critical Race Theory is and is not, so they really don’t know what they are banning and what they are not. They really are like the Nazis who talked about banning “degenerate art,” but made sure they stole all that art from the Jews. Then they created two competing art shows: one showing the kitsch art they preferred and one showing the “degenerated art,” which they disparaged. Guess where all the people showed up? Yup. They went to view the “degenerate art.” The people knew good art from propaganda.

    And that’s what we have here. Some South Dakota Nazis are trying to figure out how to make “kitsch thought” popular in the face of what they want to label “degenerate thought.” The problem is there is more real thought and more real history in Critical Race Theory than in their myths and lies.

  9. AnSD4Uandme 2021-08-07

    No member of the the South Dakota Board of Regents is a racial minority.
    https://www.sdbor.edu/the-board/members/Pages/default.aspx

    No members of the tribes.

    None of the folks propping of the state’s meatpacking industry by doing the hard work of processing hogs and cattle raised in our rural areas.

    Why would any of one of them want to seriously question a system that fostered their success?

  10. David Newquist 2021-08-07

    Gov. Ditz obviously has no idea about the policies that guide the state agencies. The Regents’ policy manual states:
    The importance of academic freedom to teaching and learning is recognized and accepted. 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 member is entitled to freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the performing of other assigned academic duties.

    Faculty members are entitled to freedom in the classroom in the discussion of their subject. They have the freedom to include the presentation of various scholarly views.

  11. Whitless 2021-08-07

    Glad to read that the Board of Regents acknowledges, albeit tacitly, that Critical Race Theory may be included in post high-school education. For social studies teachers, it is important to discern the theory or theories upon which a text book is written, including Critical Race Theory. Well written and well taught history encourages objective analysis and thinking unlike the propagandistic education that Noem seeks when she uses the term “patriotic education.” One of the reasons behind the misunderstanding of Critical Race Theory is a simplistic and one sided view of history. For example, too many people believe to be true the apocryphal story of George Washington and the cherry tree, or the idealized version of settling the prairie described in the Laura Wilder Books. The history of the United States consists of many laudable achievements, but as with most people’s lives, the history of this nation has not always been “the shining light on the hill,” or a paragon of virtue. To ignore the oppressive and harmful actions that are part of the history of this country, some of which the effects carry forward to today, results in an inability to deal objectively with current issues and to engage in rational debate.

  12. Donald Pay 2021-08-07

    Yes, a one-sided view of anything is never reality. But two-sided views can also be misleading. That’s often what you get from shoddy journalism, which is the beginning of a lot of history. There are often a lot of sides to issues. In a science textbook two-sided approaches result in watering down reality. There really aren’t two sides to the data on climate change or evolution, for example. The data are clear and the conclusion that the climate is changing due to greenhouse gas emissions and that biological system evolve via natural selection are about as firmly proved as science ever proves anything.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-08-08

    David, do you think Governor Noem recognizes that she can’t win an academic freedom fight and that she might actually be crafting a compromise with the Regents? Is it possible they have told her this statement is the best they can do and that they cannot “ban” critical race theory, and that she has settled for bald-facedly lying about what this statement actually says?

  14. Darrell Solberg 2021-08-08

    I’m not sure Kristi is smart enough to understand or explain what “critical race theory” really is. She needs to throw away her DJT talking points and quit kissing his shoes. How many times does she have to demonstrate that she is over her head as governor before for the voters of South Dakota see her for what she really is, a self-serving individual that wants to run for President. Another position she is incapable to handling!!

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-08-08

    But Darrell, those talking points and her brown-nosing are all she has to run on.

  16. Jake 2021-08-08

    Noem’s ‘taking on’ CRT is simply the result of her hiring Lewandowski for her team. He wants her in the media daily, if not more often.
    Bad news, good news,don’t matter. All news is good news. Of course, his job would be a little simpler and easier if he wasn’t trying “to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear” so to speak!

  17. DaveFN 2021-08-08

    “We also reject, and will not promote, any suggestion that one group of people is inherently superior or inferior to another group, or is inherently oppressive or immoral.”

    Oh yeah? If one takes the existentialist rather than the essentialist perspective, there is nothing inherent as all qualities of groups are constructed by contingent factors having nothing to do with the group itself, since the group has no inherent properties according to the SDBOR.

    Thus, no judgements can be passed on myriad human rights violations by groups throughout history (German Nazi political groups of the last century and white supremacist groups of the current decade, groups of slaveholders in colonial America…) nor, according to the SDBOR, will there be any judgement made.

    That’s quite a position taken by the SDBOR. Either they have no idea what they are saying, or on the other hand have every idea they know exactly what they are saying. Either way they are betrayed by their words.

  18. DaveFN 2021-08-08

    Concerning academic freedom, the concept as it currently rests in the courts is torn between academic freedom as a property of individual faculty versus academic freedom as a property of the institution (the latter being the SDBOR themselves in the case of the monolithic top-down SD heirarchy).

    This is way beyond anything the SDBOR will ever or is even able to formally articulate, whatever implicit rather than explicit thoughts they may have on the matter.

  19. DaveFN 2021-08-09

    That atrocities around the globe throughout history are owing to existential constraints and are not inherent properties of the groups that committed those atrocities — the SDBOR can reject the inherent inferiority and immorality of such groups all it wants, but the net effect is the same: atrocities are atrocities and are deserving of our judgement.

    The statement by the SDBOR is repulsive, whether from an inherent point of view, or from an existential point of view, however much the latter point of view may be constrained insofar as it is a response to Noem rather than being an autonomous, thought out position statement independent of her.

    I can but guess the SD mastermind on the SDBOR who framed their response, although it’s more than likely some fair-haired boy who came up through the ranks and is so imbued by SD-think that he can think nothing but.

  20. DaveFN 2021-08-09

    “…proudly support the United States of America…” and “…part of the rich tradition of American universities… ”

    If that doesn’t smack of obeisance to American exceptionalism I don’t know what does. As though SD universities are to be confined by the exterior boundaries both geographical and chronological defining the U.S. and are therefore somehow entirely divorced from any greater academic traditions be they in Europe or elsewhere prior to 1776.

    Just another symptom of how narrow-minded SD think really is, in this case at the “highest” of our supposedly academic and intellectual state organizational levels, although hardly surprising since the members are governor appointees reflecting the symptom of the governor herself.

  21. mike from iowa 2021-08-09

    “We also reject, and will not promote, any suggestion that one group of people is inherently superior or inferior to another group, or is inherently oppressive or immoral.”

    ‘Call me when you’re Americans.’ barfeth the kween mother.

  22. Dave 2021-08-09

    Kristi is missing a real marketing opportunity here.
    She should run a massive ad blitz telling us that the Delta variant is caused by Critical Race Theory.

  23. jerry 2021-08-09

    Meanwhile “Then, at the beginning of August, the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University in Washington issued a report entitled “China is Fast Outpacing US STEM PhD Growth,” which concluded that: “Based on current enrollment patterns, we project that by 2025 Chinese universities will produce more than 77,000 STEM PhD graduates per year compared to approximately 40,000 in the United States.”https://cset.georgetown.edu/publication/china-is-fast-outpacing-u-s-stem-phd-growth/

    So while NOem is playing marbles with rabbit poop, our competitors are educating the future. Critical Race Theory is just another form of dumbing down Americans to replace immigrant labor shoveling crap at a CAFO..

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