Could Governor Kristi Noem’s whitewash–redo of K-12 social studies standards become a campaign issue in 2022? It could in the hands of a campaigner who knows how to convince 88% of South Dakotans that Noem is acting against their interests to please a handful of out-of-state pundits and Presidential primary donors.
South Dakota News Watch and the Chiesman Center for Democracy had Mason-Dixon poll 500 registered South Dakota voters last month and found that 88% support teaching Native history and culture in South Dakota schools. That support is stronger among independents than Democrats and a little thinner among Republicans, but with every group voicing more than 80% support, Native topics in K-12 social studies curriculum should be a hotter third rail than Social Security.
POLL RESULT: HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU FEEL IT IS TO INCLUDE NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE IN THE CURRICULUM OF SOUTH DAKOTA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS?
- 61.2% very important/26.6% somewhat important — 87.8%
- 6.4% not too important/2.6% not important — 9.0%
- Not sure — 3.2%
- 67.2% very important/28.0% somewhat important — 95.2%
- 2.4% not too important/0.0% not important — 2.4%
- Not sure — 2.4%
- 73.0% very important/19.7% somewhat important — 92.7%
- 5.1% not too important/0.7% not important — 5.8%
- Not sure — 1.5%
- 51.3% very important/29.8% somewhat important — 81.1%
- 9.2% not too important/5.0% not important — 14.2%
- Not sure — 4.6% [Bart Pfankuch, “South Dakotans Overwhelmingly Support Teaching of Native American History and Culture in Public Schools,” South Dakota News Watch, 2021.11.09].
We may speculate that Noem may persist in posturing over the social studies standards because the 12% who don’t think teaching South Dakota kids about Lakota culture is important tend to be louder and donate more money to Republicans than the sensible 88%. Noem’s opponents need to get louder about her defiance of overwhelming public sentiment and responsible history education and get voters to elect a Governor who will keep her racism and her campaigning out of our classrooms.