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Authoritarian Noem Gives Standards Workgroup Big Fat F, Restarts Curriculum Revision from Scratch

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.


  1. Donald Pay 2021-10-02 09:16

    Here’s what I see. She can’t come up with the standards she wants on her own. She’s simply not competent to do so. Plus, she’s gutless. She doesn’t want her fingerprints on anything, because she doesn’t want accountability. What if, for instance, she again come up with something the National Review would snicker at and condemn? She’d be outed, once again, as an incompetent. According to the National Review, who know nothing about South Dakota politics, Noem is batting about .114 from the right side and .423 from the left. They think she’s a fake and a closet lefty So, yeah, she’s got to find some way to get butt boys and girls to fake up some “standards” to take the heat off her. She wants complete and total ideologues on that standards committee. That way she can get her friends and donors at Hillsdale College to force feed the standards to the butt boys and girls. That’s about the only way she gets what she wants: paying off Hillsdale College with taxpayer funding.

  2. Mark Anderson 2021-10-02 09:34

    Come on Cory, she’s just answering Stanley Kurtz who criticized her two weeks ago on this issue. She had a really bad week, with her corruption and nepotism showing, so defect, deflect, change the subject in other words, In tennis it’s called a bathroom break, and she’s come out swinging.. She moved so slowly it’s like she was having an affair or something.

  3. Whitless 2021-10-02 10:08

    Kristi would likely throw her own mother under a bus if she thought it would help her politically. That is essentially what she did to the Social Studies Standards Revision Workgroup because of Stanley Kurtz’s hit piece in the National Review. This latest action follows the well established pattern of Kristi acting in her own political self interest. It also reflects her weakness by kowtowing to an author who cherry picked a few facts and wrote a widely distorted and inaccurate article about the work toward revising South Dakota’s social study standards. Once again, Kristi’s actions and words are pathetic.

  4. leslie 2021-10-02 11:38

    Ever wonder why Gettysburg police wear the stars and bars on their official uniforms? Why our state police and national guards arrest Lakota activists on the streets of Keystone while Trump’s military armanda flys in Kristi and his posse at the Mt Rushmore rally? This has been discussed this here before. Same reason uneducated Noem does sheit like this state-wide “social studies revision”. Or Watertown high school pageants culturally appropriate Indian stereotypes? Or Lusk WY every summer evening has “Indians” flay some white settler “alive” for the tourists? The uneducated US is built on racism and white privilege.

    My 1st grandchild attends Cal State Poly. Her history lectures include the following education Noem is oblivious to:

    “the hyperbole; the paranoia; the sensitivity; the defensiveness. They say don’t criticize us or we’ll secede. These are the emotions of a ruling class that fears its oppressed laborers will rise up and kill them.” Steve Campbell connects the Indian land to enslavers’ term “virgin land”.

    I recall Ditca here, once, i think, responding to my critique of desperation and starvation in Venezuela. “It’s SOCIALISM, numb-nut [owtte]!” he said. Ewww, be very afraid!! Huh?

    Campbell: “If Congress discusses slavery even indirectly, we’ll wind up poor like the West Indies.” Talk about hyperbole! I’m reminded of similarly problematic slippery slope args like “if we don’t control spending or debt, we’ll wind up like Venezuela!”

    Republicans’ “limited government” [especially in times of pandemic] is just uneducated race baiting, coming all the way back from our enslaver founders, and Kristi’s listening to too much Rand Paul and similar idiots. And wearing camouflage pandering to 2nd amend. militia idiots.

    “When they hear about limited government, liberty, using the Constitution as the founders intended, and low taxes, they should ask, low taxes for what purpose? Is it to elevate the status of white over non-whites?” See thread 1-84. @Historian_Steve
    Sep 30
    “2. This thread was inspired by a response to
    @arielronid’s excellent article in Slate. For years I had known about the slavery—limited government relationship but now I wanted specific, verifiable proof in the primary sources.” Twitter

    Our governor is a piece of work. Thanks GOP. Kochs. Mitch McConnell. Electing incompetent retired actors, “rodeo queens”, reality show hosts, etc, over and over. To do the 1%, corporate bidding. It’s as simple as that.

  5. Eve Fisher 2021-10-02 12:18

    This is our Governor’s way of saying she had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day / Week, and will you PLEASE pay attention to what she’s doing for conservative social studies values instead! NOW!

  6. Porter Lansing 2021-10-02 12:32


    Have you or anyone else ever seen or heard Gov. Noem say anything about her mother?

    That’s a subconscious “tell” that she’s got baggage so big it’s been repressed.

  7. Whitless 2021-10-02 12:42

    Porter, Interesting observation.

  8. ArloBlundt 2021-10-02 13:23

    Well…Donald Pay is correct…bring in Hillsdale College professors to “facilitate the standards in accordance with the new American Fascism so prevalent in the Republican Party…and welcome back Leslie, you hit the nail on the head. A slap in the face to Social Studies teachers across South Dakota…it will be interesting to see where the new task force members come from…I was not aware that Rutland, Colome, and Gayville were hotbeds of radical leftist thinking.

  9. ArloBlundt 2021-10-02 13:52

    Well…Melinda Johnson, the Department of Education professional who led the aborted state task force on social Studies Standards will be next to visit the Governor’s Office. I hope she hasn’t jusy bought a home in Pierre.

  10. jerry 2021-10-02 14:47

    No room now in the heads of the contrail conspiracy regime. I would’ve thought that NOem would’ve linked it to her conspiracy to defraud the state of South Dakota for her dumbarse kid.. Gwaad, don’t they give dummy’s like her kid a crib sheet to copy from?

  11. Donald Pay 2021-10-02 14:58

    The problem with Noem, as with a lot of the far righty dingbats, and I put the National Review’s Stanley Kurtz in that category, is they don’t know the difference between THEIR values, state standards and curriculum. A lot of their complaints have to do with wanting THEIR values to be taught, rather than history. A lot of the righty public comment confuses state standards, local curriculum and what teachers actually teach. Because they are racists, they want to restrict discussion of South Dakota and United States history, not understand it in its fully complexity.

    Here’s Noem: “Our kids deserve to learn both America’s and South Dakota’s true and honest history….” Fine, except historians may disagree about what is “true and honest history.” Sure, certain things happen on certain dates. Or do they? For example, the Congress voted for independence from Britain on July 2. Because of historical flukes and some myth making that had little to do with “real” history, we celebrate it on July 4. But the Declaration was actually not the thing that would get people hanged. It was the vote to separate from Britain. Thomas Jefferson actually didn’t like the Declaration of Independence passed by Congress, though he decided to sign it as a solidarity gesture. We can’t teach kids all the complexities for our history. It would take too much time, but we shouldn’t teach them Noem’s “values” based on false information, misinformation or politically-inspired propaganda, either.

  12. Francis Schaffer 2021-10-02 15:08

    So teaching facts honestly will, ‘pit our children against each other based upon race, sex or background’. How is this likely? What has been the end result of the way in which history has been taught up to now? Also she means gender not sex, right? Will the new committee have its meetings televised? Pay per view, maybe?
    I just reread what I have written. I made the assumption facts would be used in the development of educational curriculum. Is this a safe assumption on my part?

  13. ArloBlundt 2021-10-02 15:41

    Cory–please allow me to rant a bit…I’m nearly beside myself with this overt display of arrogance by the Governor.
    First of all, there were no representatives from the South Dakota State Historical Society on the aborted task force and undoubtedly won’t be on the Governor’s “new task force”. The Society staff are professional Historians and produce quarterly a South Dakota History Journal which is filled with scholarly, researched papers by Historians from throughout the country. It covers the latest research on South Dakota and Midwestern History and is acknowledged nationally as one of the best Journals of History in the nation. Shunning these exceptionally competent Historians is another indication of Governor Noem’s war on anything intellectual, her numbing campaign to “dumb down” South Dakota is a disservice that will take us a generation to correct.

  14. ArloBlundt 2021-10-02 16:11

    Second….The Governor is blatantly disingenuous when she states she seeks an “honest and true history taught in a balanced context…which accurately reflect the values of South Dakota.” What gobble de gook!!! History is a marketplace of ideas. There is no “right and wrong” to History. Its the story of how we became what we are and its filled with conflict, human foibles, prejudices and remarkable courage. Our progress is a constant struggle and a constant interchange of ideas, ideologies, false prophets, failed visionaries, and the enduring human spirit.The Governor wants to dumb this great story down to an episode of “Leave It to Beaver” with a simple truism at the end of the lesson. It was never so. Our History is triumphant and tragic as we have stumbled forward to create “A More Perfect Union.” It is as though the Governor has never read her history beyond the fifth grade.

  15. Donald Pay 2021-10-02 16:38

    Absolutely agree with Arlo that some representation from professional historians is important. There were a couple or more on the committee, though not from the SD Historical Society. I know that Mr. Vogt from the SD Historical Society did submit comments to the Workgroup. The thing is K-12 educators are experts in history and have a better grasp of what standards, curriculum and classroom teaching in K-12 requires, and the differences between the three. A lot of people mix up standards with specific curriculum. I think that’s really Noem’s and the Stanley Kurtz’ problem.

  16. Donald Pay 2021-10-02 16:53

    And I agree with Arlo’s follow on comment, as well. History really comes alive when you deal with the reality and complexity of events that make up history, and on the ways various historians interpret, critique and re-interpret it.

  17. O 2021-10-02 17:30

    Mark’s critique is on-point. This is all about answering the Stanley Kurtz attack. There is still no specific detail of the proposed curriculum that has been pointed to as an offending standard. Instead, a wild clearing of the entire process answers that wild, unsubstantiated attack of Kurtz. Anything less than an overreaction would have required actual thought and analysis. Frankly, I’m surprised that symbolic heads have not been put on spikes at DOE to establish a proper purge.

  18. ArloBlundt 2021-10-02 17:45

    Mr. Schaffer brings up an interesting point when he asks if “facts” will be used to write curriculum standards. There is a tendency to use what we consider irrefutable facts when teaching history in secondary school…those facts being a collection of dates and events …but those are milestones rather than facts, markers along the road, usually the culmination of years of struggle and controversy. There are no facts. Irrefutable facts are difficult to find in History and require research, active inquiry, and thoughtful discourse. For example: Did Lincoln really want to free the slaves??He said many times he did not, and when he did he only freed those slaves in areas not occupied by Union Troops. There was no universal emancipation until the end of the Civil War. It was a very complicated decision and not a popular one in the North. Yet its likely to be taught that “Lincoln freed the slaves”…Period…Did Roosevelt provoke Japan to go to war with the US??Roosevelt’s ambivalence to enter WWII lasted nearly three years and on December 7 1941, over 70% of Americans were isolationists who did not want to enter either the European or Asian war. We curtailed trade with Japan slowly, in increments, and declared our neutrality while supplying arms and supplies under lend lease to England. Yet, its likely to be taught as a fact that we entered WWII because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor….Period…Who fired the first shot at Wounded Knee??A frightened member of Bigfoot’s band or a frightened 19 year old immigrant soldier from Pennsylvania who, like nearly half the soldiers there had been in the Army less than a year. It was the culmination of over a decade of tragedy for the Indian people which included pauperization and starvation yet I doubt that will be in the curriculum. In fact, it may not be mentioned at all, because it will be viewed as divisive. History is not facts and “South Dakota values”. It is tragedy and triumph, folly and heroic vision, in an uncertain journey to become a nation.The Governor would have her curriculum include only the triumph and the heroism mixed with McGuffy Reader truisms which she calls “South Dakota values”. She would not teach our children History, she would teach them Myth.

  19. Porter Lansing 2021-10-02 18:50

    Kristi Noem dictating that history be taught the way she thinks it happened = white privilege

    Kristi Noem removing the desecration of Indian culture by settlers = white supremacy

  20. cibvet 2021-10-02 23:32

    History is recorded by those who wish to show America as the greatest country on the planet. Almost always,it is a mixture half-truths and fiction where as politicians give lies and more lies.

  21. Mark Winegar 2021-10-03 07:31

    She’s a spoiled lil’ gnome.

  22. John 2021-10-03 08:29

    Noem is an authoritarian who gets nothing done aside from bullying, put-downs, and campaigning. She, along with our congressional delegation, and recent governors are incompetent.
    The theme of incompetence in democratic governance is a theme across too many democracies across and impatient public. The reference letter to citizens wishing to leave Hong Kong is a cautionary note of realism of western government incompetence of the sort leading to frustration to vote for autocrats – using hope as a method that government competence may appear out of the ether.

  23. John 2021-10-03 08:42

    RE; Arlo’s rant. You go! Outstanding observations to which I’ll add:
    “Ideals are peaceful; history is violent.” – War Daddy Collier in Fury.

    Any pretending otherwise, that history is not violent ignores truth, ignores the intransigence of the established order to give up their social and economic order.

    “At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past.” Maurice Maeterlinck

  24. Mark Anderson 2021-10-03 08:48

    Arlo, your comments here are spot on but you should leave, Leave it to Beaver out of it. Wally’s a good sculptor whos still alive and kicking. He should have never married Mary Ellen Rodgers and maybe had the beer with that beautiful blonde girl who worked at the movie theater who took him to a bar! It’s still sad that no one but white people lived in their home town but shucks, what can you say, didn’t everyone’s mother wear pearls while vacuuming. I’m sure just watching a few episodes of this would fit into the true and honest, balanced curriculum that the nation needs.

  25. ArloBlundt 2021-10-03 17:55

    Mark, Popular culture has a place in history instruction. And, I’m coming to believe that Eddie Haskell grew up to be Cory Lewandowski.

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