Governor Kristi Noem is throwing away months of work done by dozens of teachers and starting the state’s K-12 social studies standards revision process from scratch:
“I have asked the Department of Education to restart the process from the beginning. I want to ensure we propose standards that accurately reflect the values of South Dakota,” Governor Noem said. “Our kids deserve to learn both America’s and South Dakota’s true and honest history, taught in a balanced context that doesn’t pit our children against each other on the basis of race, sex, or background. More work needs to be done to get this right, and we are committed to seeing that process through.”
The governor’s plan will create a new workgroup of stakeholders to develop standards [Office of the Governor, press release, 2021.09.30].
Did you catch that, Social Studies Standards Revision Workgroup Members (whose names I’m copying below, as I suspect the Governor will order the Department of Education to quickly strike these radical leftist subversives from the state’s website)? You failed miserably. The standards you worked so hard to produce failed to “accurately reflect the values of South Dakota.” They lacked “balanced context” and “pit[ted] our children against each other on the bases if race, sex, or background.” You performed so badly (or at least got her such negative publicity from the radical rightwing media mill) that she’s casting you aside and convening a whole new workgroup.
Members of the Original K-12 Social Studies Standards Revision Workgroup:
|Morgan Larson, Canistota School District||Monique Keck, Spearfish School District|
|Haley Dressler, Rapid City Area Schools||Denise Allen, Langford Area School District|
|Megan Deal, Pierre School District||Eric Reynolds, Edgemont School District|
|Teri Kinsley, Jones County School District||Roberta Bizardie, Todd County School District|
|Melinda Geiszler, Rutland School District||Sherri Rawstern, Dacotah Prairie Museum|
|Ali Tonsfeldt, Fort Sisseton Historic State Park||Claire Beck, Kadoka Area School District|
|Fred Osborn, Office of Indian Education||Kirstin Livermont, Rapid City Area Schools|
|Andrea Stanosheck, Yankton School District||Kris Johnson, Sisseton Middle School|
|Jordan Esmay, Belle Fourche School District||Darcy Higbee, Rapid City Area Schools|
|Paige Wright, Harrisburg School District||Betsy Schamber, Dakota State University|
|Andrew Stewart, Dakota Valley Public School||Ladonna Mielke, Mobridge Pollock School District|
|Madeleine Gonsoir, Aberdeen School District||Dr. Sherry Johnson, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate|
|Shaun Nielsen, Rapid City Area Schools||Erin McBurney, Watertown Middle School|
|Carissa VanderLey, Chamberlain High School||Sarah Jacobs, SD Agricultural Heritage Museum/South Dakota National History Day|
|Dr. Stephen Jackson, University of Sioux Falls||Judy Rapp, Retired Social Studies Teacher|
|Kim McCullough, Brookings School District||Grant Lolley, Bison Community Schools|
|Senator Jim Bolin, South Dakota Legislator||Kelsey Lovseth, Brookings School District|
|Carrie Huber, Rapid City Area Schools||Cara Phelps, Rapid City Area Schools|
|Lisa Forcier, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate||Dr. Joel Johnson, Augustana University|
|Paul Harens, Retired Teacher||Wade Juracek, Colome School District|
|Rebecca Loutsch, Gayville-Volin School District||Justin Palmer, Brookings School District|
|Michael Nankervis, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte School District||Michael Kane, Belle Fourche School District|
|Beth Ratway, American Institutes for Research, project facilitator||Melinda Johnson, SD Department of Education, Social Studies Revision project lead|
At least that’s the big red F the Governor is scrawling on your work. Didn’t you read the instructions…or between the lines of the instructions? The Governor doesn’t want actual social studies standards; she wants Noem 2024 campaign flyers!
Governor Noem may hope this wholesale dismissal of months of work by volunteer teachers will deter many pragmatic social studies teachers from participating in the new process—why waste my time if the Governor can just snap her fingers and throw all our honest work away? Such discouragement of good teachers would make it easier for the Governor to stack the new workgroup with stakeholders—or is the proper term here stakedrivers?—who will be happy to treat the curriculum standards revision process as an opportunity to grandstand against “critical race theory” (in quotes, because clueless Kristi and her circle of anti-intellectual partisans use the term as a rabble-rousing and diversionary campaign slogan, not an honest appellation for a well-attested approach to understanding systemic racism in our history and our institutions) and plant more “Dear Leader Kristi” propaganda in our schools.
I’d like to say, who cares about social studies curriculum standards? Good teachers will go on teaching good history and civics. Students will rush to get their homework done. Busy parents will check the report cards and then head for their second shifts. Almost no one will spend time reading whatever dreck the new workgroup produces, let alone experience any significant change in the course of their lives because of the resulting documents.
But Noem’s intervention in and overturning of the normal curriculum review process shows how far a vain authoritarian will go to consolidate her control over every aspect of state government to make sure everyone speaks in her voice. In this case, Noem’s heavy-handed executive action demonstrates another typical characteristic of authoritarians: a deep loathing of teachers and education, which tend to gravely threaten the sustainability of dictatorships.