The fix is in for South Dakota’s social studies standards. After rejecting last fall a 46-person workgroup’s draft of K-12 social studies standards that gave Indians and critical inquiry too much attention, and after getting over 150 applicants who wanted to join a new standards workgroup that was supposed to start its work early last winter, Noem today picked 15 people to meet May 4 and start writing social studies standards more to her liking. The chosen few:
- Mark Miller, Chair of Commission
- Joe Circle Bear
- Janet Finzen
- Stephanie Hiatt
- Benjamin F. Jones, Ph.D. – State Historian
- Dylan Kessler
- Aaron Levisay
- Christopher Motz
- Shaun Nielsen
- Fred Osborn – State Director of Indian Education
- Jon Schaff
- Mary Shuey
- State Representative Tamara St. John
- Samantha Walder
- State Senator John Wiik
Where the original 46-member panel had just one legislator, Republican Senator Jim Bolin, the new 15-member panel has two, Republican Representative Tamara St. John and Republican Senator John Wiik. Noem has also rigged the panel with her former Education Secretary, now nicely sinecured conservative state historian Dr. Ben Jones. Dakota Valley teacher Mary Shuey has served as a Republican party official in Union County under SDGOP chair Dan Lederman. Winnebago school teacher Janet Finzen is a Republican neighbor of Lederman in Dakota Dunes. The panel includes two Aberdeen conservatives: Dylan Kessler is a former Thune staffer with no professional background in education, while Dr. Jon Schaaf professes political science at Northern and will ensure no liberal philosophy sneaks into the standards.
And chairing the panel is Noem’s own chief of staff, former Florida lawyer Mark Miller, who will make sure our K-12 social studies teachers portray transgender activism and other nefarious influences as terrorism.
The committee includes at least two tribal members, Rep. St. John of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and Joe Circle Bear of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Noem must feel safe with Circle Bear: she hosted a tribal Round Dance at the Capitol in 2021 and had Circle Bear master the ceremony.
But while the original workgroup was dominated by working South Dakota K-12 teachers, Noem’s smaller group appears to have only two active South Dakota K-12 teachers (Nielsen and Shuey; Finzen teaches in Nebraska) and one active South Dakota K-12 administrator (Samantha Walder, Tea Legacy Elementary).
Noem’s picks make clear what the focus of this committee will be, and it won’t be practical classroom social studies standards guided by working teachers.