The Noem Administration has kept Hillsdale College’s ideological rewrite of South Dakota’s social studies curriculum standards under pretty tight wraps for the last couple months. Her slimmed-down, crony-packed workgroup supposedly started meeting in May behind closed doors.
When Department of Education finally does release the workgroup’s rubber-stamped Hillsdale curriculum, perhaps we’ll get to see if Hillsdale is playing the same partisan conservative games it is playing in Florida, where it is parlaying influence with Governor Ron DeSantis to push its indoctrination into Florida public schools while promoting its own charter schools:
The college’s influence has been seen in the state’s rejection of math textbooks over what DeSantis called “indoctrinating concepts,” the state’s push to renew the importance of civics education in public schools, and the rapid growth of Hillsdale’s network of affiliated public charter schools in Florida.
Hillsdale also has had sway over the Republican-led Legislature. In 2019, lawmakers approved a law that allowed the college and three other groups to help the state revise its civics standards. Three years later, those guidelines are part of a DeSantis-led civics initiative that has concerned several educators about an infusion of Christianity and conservative ideologies [Ana Ceballos and Sommer Brugal, “How a Small, Conservative Michigan College Is Helping Reshape Education in Florida,” Miami Herald, 2022.07.01].
Florida evidently gave a Hillsdale “civics education specialist” and a Hillsdale sophomore special pay to scour Florida textbooks for “prohibited topics”:
A Herald/Times review of nearly 6,000 pages of textbook examination showed only three of the 125 reviewers found objectionable content. Two of the three were affiliated with Hillsdale College. One was Jonah Apel, a sophomore student majoring in political science, and the other was Jordan Adams, a civics education specialist at the college.
Apel is listed as the secretary of the Hillsdale College Republicans, a group whose mission includes connecting students to the “political arena” and “changing the United States in accordance with truth, liberty and human flourishing.” Adams is tied to Hillsdale’s 1776 curriculum, a history and civics-based education program that covers American history, government and civics to provide the “knowledge and understanding of American history and of the American republic as governed by the Constitution and morally grounded in the Declaration of Independence.”
…Apel and Adams were invited by the state to review “prohibited topics,” though Florida Department of Education officials have not responded to questions inquiring why they specifically invited people to scour for contentious issues like critical race theory. The state paid “prohibited topic” reviewers $500 per review, $170 more than they paid others who reviewed books to ensure the books matched the rest of the state’s math standards, state records show [Ceballos and Brugal, 2022.07.01].
Hmmm… I wonder what special pay Hillsdale’s Dr. William Morrissey got for helping pick Noem’s standards workgroup?
As for those charter schools in Florida, Hillsdale doesn’t own or operate them, but it can sure use them to promote its branded curriculum and help arch-conservative parents find safe spaces into which to segregate their children from social progress:
Hillsdale offers training for faculty and staff and shares its curriculum with the charter schools, which are publicly funded and privately run. The services, which are offered free of charge, allow the college to expand the reach of its curriculum, which puts an emphasis on classical literature, core subjects and developing “moral character and civic virtue.”
The affiliation to Hillsdale can also be helpful to attract more parents, said Barney Bishop, a lobbyist who is a board member at the Tallahassee Classical School, which launched in 2020 with the help of Hillsdale.
“What attracts parents to us is they understand who and what Hillsdale College is,” Bishop said. He says people are also drawn to a classical education because he believes the teaching model emphasizes the difference between “right and wrong,” the “virtues that we hold in high esteem” and the “values and importance of personal responsibility” [Ceballos and Brugal, 2022.07.01].
The more Hillsdale spreads its brand, the more it can help its alumni get their foot in the door of influential political positions:
“When I get people who submit resumes, quite frankly if I got one from Yale, I would be negatively disposed to that individual unless they showed some type of significant counter to the prevailing narrative,” DeSantis, a Yale alumni, said.
“If I get someone from Hillsdale,” he said. “I know they have the foundations necessary to be able to be helpful in pursuing conservative policies” [Ceballos and Brugal, 2022.07.01].
And when Hillsdale can get its alumni in those influential positions—as they have in South Dakota, with Hillsdale grad Ian Fury serving as Governor Kristi Noem’s chief of communications and top campaign aide—Hillsdale has that many more opportunities to insert its curriculum and political views into the education systems and policies of more states and lure more Americans into modern Hungarian fascism. Clever plan!