I gave the South Dakota Education Association heck last month for failing to respond vigorously to Governor Kristi Noem’s spate of culture war bills, three of which issued in December target the credibility, autonomy, and morality of public education. Not until Noem issued her fourth bird-flip to schools, her hypocritical and overreaching proposal to block schools from teaching practical civics, did the state’s teachers’ union raise its voice against Noem’s anti-education agenda.
On Tuesday, SDEA president Loren Paul issued this response to the Governor’s State of the State Address. Paul doesn’t specifically mention any of her four anti-education bills—promoting prayer in school, banning transgender kids from playing with their gender-appropriate teams, banning what Noem mistakenly calls critical race theory, and banning action civics—and he only generally addresses half of that vile agenda:
No matter what we look like, where we live, or what is in our wallets, most of us want our public schools and educators to inspire imagination, cultivate critical thinking, and ensure our students can live fulfilling lives and thrive. Educators and parents agree that South Dakota must focus on having well-resourced schools where students have the freedom to learn with an education that prepares them for the future.
To prepare children for that future, we need to teach them both the good and the bad of our history so we can avoid making the same mistakes. Educators want to provide every student an accurate and quality education, but we need the tools and resources to do that.
Instead of proposing divisive legislation that will only lead to state censorship of the lessons our children learn, we urge Governor Noem to work with South Dakota’s educators to make sure every school has the funding necessary to provide South Dakota’s students the education they deserve, which is an honest and accurate education that enables them to learn from the mistakes of our past to help create a better future [Loren Paul, SDEA press release, 2022.01.11].
That statement is better than the silence with which SDEA ceded the floor to Noem and her anti-education cronies for a month. And the call to focus on working together to give education practical support instead of dividing communities and undermining public education makes moral and political sense. But it’s not enough to say, “Let’s focus on the budget.” South Dakota’s teachers and kids need SDEA to follow up by saying…
- Kids can already pray whenever they want; mandating a moment of prayer is unnecessary and unconstitutional.
- Transgender kids have rights and aren’t hurting school sports or anything else. Noem needs to get out of kids’ pants.
- Critical race theory is valid and useful but not the focus of any curriculum in South Dakota; government banning ideas is bad for education and bad for America.
- Action civics is the most effective civics education possible; teaching civics strictly from a textbook is bad practice.
SDEA, expand your defense of public education against every prong of Noem’s assault on teachers and students. SDEA leaders and teachers everywhere, make those points loudly and daily in the lobbies and committee rooms in Pierre, in interviews with every reporter you can find, and in crackerbarrels and other events back home with your local legislators.