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Hillsdale Influence on SD Social Studies Standards Follows Florida Pattern

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!


  1. Donald Pay 2022-07-07 09:55

    Hillsdale, of course, works on their ability to direct the taxpayer dollars they garner into payoffs to politicians that funnel money their way. It’s a money game from both sides, paid for by your tax dollars.

  2. All Mammal 2022-07-07 10:06

    Ian Fury is a product of Hillsdale. That says it all. This is frightening, hills have eyes type bs. It is bogus education, to boot. Our kids are in clear and present danger as long as our fake bemaned governor is anywhere near the helm.

  3. larry kurtz 2022-07-07 10:38

    Ick. Republicans love fake heroes like John Wayne, too.

    The extreme white wing of the Republican Party wants a not so civil war because oligarchs fear liability and will be compelled to pay reparations to Indigenous and to the descendants of enslaved people.

    Hollywood, broadcast radio and commercial teevee are to blame. Fake cowboys killing fake Indians with fake guns and fake bullets sanitized events like Acoma, Indian boarding schools, Wounded Knee and Juneteenth just so white people might forget about colonization then scholars mucked it up with critical race theory.

  4. sx123 2022-07-07 10:56

    Maybe all of my kids will be out of south dakota schools when this new curriculum hits. But I’ll withhold judgement until I see what concoction comes out of this.

  5. Jake 2022-07-07 11:00

    I also recall that the current Supreme court justice who wants to take away the birth control pill, install Constitutional
    ‘life’ @ conception, eliminate gay marriages, eliminate any rights to the LGTBQ segments of society and give taxpayer money to religious schools also has very close ties to Hillsdale College. This after the bold moves recently by the Trump installed justices who lied to Congress to get a life-time appointment. He, Thomas, a black married to a white woman, not too far in the pst was breaking the law of many states in his mixed marriage. But that’s “ok”. because it is him. hmmmm

  6. P. Aitch 2022-07-07 12:33

    The pendulum swings … Whatever you believe politically know that the opposite belief is just as popular and just as valid. Be The Center

  7. leslie 2022-07-07 12:51

    “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,” [Fla Gov Ron] 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].

    Conservatives have policies?

    This is why Kristi is moulding SD higher education institutions in the Koch/Trump exaggerated poisoned Republican brand.

    Muscular Democrats are bringing us transparency and truth. The real truth. Not:

    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.”

    So Friday the Jan 6 Commission is taking testimony from Trump’s Presidential lawyer Pat Cippoloni, under subpoena. The lawyer who argued during impeachment “Trump did absolutely nothing wrong” and who was nailed by 26 year old Chief of Staff Meadows’ aide under similar subpeona last week as having said: “keep Trump’s staff from attending the War Room at the Willard Hotel Jan 5th” the night before Trump’s planned violent coup, “or we will be charged with every crime imaginable!”

  8. Arlo Blundt 2022-07-07 17:19

    Classroom teachers are not going to pay any attention to a curriculum constructed by a “hired gun”, highly paid “consultant” from Hillsdale College. Neither will High School Principals who have to deal effectively with pressing human problems every day, not lecture staff about “politically correct” instruction. Same with Elementary Principals. Our schools operate within the boundaries of a very professional collaboration between teachers and administrators and neither group wants to cause chaos in the classroom. Decisions are predicated on the interest of students to learn in a calm, supportive, consistent environment. That’s why kids, despite their complaints, tend to like their schools, a lot.

    Noem and her select group of “True Believers” will construct a document, written and published at great state expense, which will sit on shelves, all over South Dakota, for the next twenty years. It will have no impact on instruction.

  9. larry kurtz 2022-07-07 17:38

    It reads like the SDGOP’s interpretation of the Great Replacement is the codification of talent flight from South Dakota and its replacement with party inquisitors spouting doctrinal jingoisms to prepare students for careers of joyless toil.

    It’s important to remember that no war is ever civil.

  10. larry kurtz 2022-07-07 18:05

    I didn’t know anything about Wounded Knee or that Harry Truman committed crimes against humanity until college.

    Revisionist history turned the Wounded Knee Massacre into a battle but Senator Mike Rounds (NAZI-SD) said he won’t vote for the Senate companion to the Remove the Stain Act that would annul Congressional Medals of Honor for twenty war criminals responsible for the slaughter of children, women and men in 1890 at Wounded Knee in occupied South Dakota.

    Led by South Dakota State Senator Troy Heinert (D-26) a resolution in the legislature in support of revoking those medals passed overwhelmingly but President Joe Biden is likely to rescind those commendations by executive order.

  11. DaveFN 2022-07-07 18:28

    Arlo Blundt

    “Classroom teachers are not going to pay any attention to a curriculum constructed by a “hired gun”, highly paid “consultant” from Hillsdale College.”

    Not my experience. Keep teacher pay low and “incentivize” their participation in such agendas by a monetary award. Works every time. I’ve seen this disrupt entire university cultures here in South Dakota.

  12. Arlo Blundt 2022-07-07 19:02

    DaveFN–the day will never come in South Dakota when the Legislature or a Republican Governor earmarks cash incentives to a discreet group of teachers for implementing their politically prescribed curricula. Just doesn’t happen…what they might do is offer “free graduate credit…or “free license renewal credit” for teachers who attend a summer workshop on methods of teaching the curriculum. Then the State Department of Ed. needs to find instructors who can effectively teach these instructional methods to highly skeptical, intelligent, practitioners. Good luck with that…they’ll roll out a couple highly paid true believers who will spend their sessions speaking to the ceiling.

    The State Department of Ed. can pass an administrative rule which mandates teaching the curriculum with the sanction, that if it is not taught (How much, how measured, what are the competencies students are to demonstrate after receiving instruction???) the district will lose all or a portion of its State Aid the next year. This bludgeon is often discussed but, in my experience, never implemented. There are way too many intervening and politically powerful local and legislative (and State Board of Education, and SDEA, and School Board Association) interventions and appeals that take the hammer from the cruel hand of government. Why deprive all children of financial resource for a quality education over a squabble about a politically prescribed curriculum in one class?? Remember, in South Dakota, elementary and secondary education is local and state mandates quickly run out of steam.

    Most likely scenario is that the Principal calls in the social studies teacher(s) and says “This is the curriculum the politicians want us to teach. It might have some good ideas. It might not. Up to you. Go through the book here and flag ideas that you might incorporate into your lesson plans with a post-it note and keep it in your closet in case anybody from the state comes by. I doubt they will. No one from the office of curriculum and instruction has visited here in my memory.”

  13. DaveFN 2022-07-07 21:23

    Arlo Blundt

    The system is much more subtle and devious–or blatant, depending on one’s perspective.

    Consider Governor Janklow’s Faculty Awards for Teaching with Technology of the Summer, 1999.

    Typically, a “call for proposals” will be issued for teachers to develop “relevant” classroom modules which have content that conforms to specific (but not toooo specific) objectives referenced in the call for proposals, and the incentive to potential awardees will be a month or so of summer salary. Such proposals will then be reviewed by a committee comprised of team players in the affair which will cull and award proposals based on set objectives.

    The culmination will be a dog and pony show by the awardees at a conference convened by the Office of the Governor. to convince everyone how well-spent the monies were.

    It’s a typical way to Trojan Horse agendas into the system.

    The ultimate fate of all the wasted money and effort will be to find the projects in the trash can in a year or two, as administrations chase whatever new agendas come from top-down.

  14. grudznick 2022-07-07 21:35

    Oh, Mr. DaveFN, you also show some amazing perception with this blogging. grudznick has been around the track a few times as well, and just didn’t recognize you for the letterman you are.

  15. Arlo Blundt 2022-07-07 22:53

    DaveFN–can’t argue with your perspective on state colleges and universities and political meddling…an important point you make is that after a couple years and a couple dog and pony shows, government leaders grow weary of the project, the steam goes out of the initiative, and it fades away, like the bloom on the rose.

    To give you an idea of the massiveness of Noem’s conceit in believing she can mandate curriculum and put into lockstep the hundreds of social studies teachers in Jr. High and High Schools in over 150 South Dakota school districts, their Principals, School Boards, Superintendents and support staff, remember that the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education contains one Social Studies Specialist and a miniscule budget comprised almost exclusively of federal funds. There will be many task forces and meetings, plaques will be awarded, and those who stand and watch will be acclaimed, but the wheels will never hit the highway.

  16. DaveFN 2022-07-08 00:09

    Also Blundt and grudznick

    Consider Noem’s set-aside of $900,000 for her project to “incentivize” any recalcitrant who exist and otherwise have any and of their own in our SD educational system, namely those recalcitrant, underpaid teachers who for all that can therefore be all the more incentivized, aka “bought.” Kinda like the strategy of keeping them barefoot and pregnant, ie. entirely beholden to and hoping for anything, something better, in the case in point, a few extra dollars of summer salary which, when taken , thereby secure their consent and assent to the Governor’s agenda. In other words, pay them off and shut them up—and make them allies, to boot.

    Formulaic as it is, the recipe is about as dysfunctional as South Dakota can come up with.

  17. DaveFN 2022-07-08 00:14

    Correction to spell-miscorrector: That’s “any mind of their own” rather than “any and of their own.”

  18. All Mammal 2022-07-08 00:16

    My third grade teacher drew a diagram on the board of Magic Johnson going from bed to bed and that was how we learned about HIV/AIDS. We had dialogue and understood exactly how the virus could and couldn’t spread and infect people. It was relevant and good teachers seize teachable moments… Then, after Tanner drew a swastika on his desk, Ms. M gathered us all up and explained the Holocaust. I was in disbelief. I thought my mom would share my confusion as to why Ms. M was making up insane stories. My mom handed me a book called, “Was God On Vacation?” I read the account of Jack Van Der Geest’s daunting survival from the occupation to Buchenwald, to the French Underground Resistance to parachuting into pitch dark to selling insurance in South Dakota, all that very night.

    Man, I feel lucky my teachers had the liberty to veer off the lesson plan to explain to 3rd graders what matters. By treating us like capable people, our educators were doing us a great service. Its a sign of respect to entrust young people with the truth. Nowadays, parents would sue the school for obscenity and grooming and Mr. Van Der Geest’s memoir would be burned. Ol Ms. M would get read the riot act and my classmates and I would be dying of rampant AIDS while ignorantly hating whoever.

    We need an abrupt about face to get headed in the right direction. That begins with ignoring anything Governor Kristi orders. What is she going to do? Tattle on us to Trump, like she did when she got 86’ed from the rez after she refused to give one crap about preserving the Lakota language while covid was killing elders in devastating numbers? Noem has no juice. Maybe anal juice:/

  19. mike from iowa 2022-07-08 10:06

    Thanks for that link, Bill. Interestring read. Civics cours based on American exceptionalism. I guess that means all Americans except non-whites.

  20. Mark Anderson 2022-07-08 15:45

    So South Dakota and Florida will graduate ignorant students. It’s fitting.

  21. Arlo Blundt 2022-07-08 16:29

    DaveFN–I have no doubt that Governor will spend 900,000 bucks. How much of that goes to Social Studies teachers is a point in question. There are probably close to a thousand teachers of social studies in Middle School, Jr. High, and High school with at least one social studies assignment. How is she going to organize this massive pay off of a couple hundred bucks per teacher??? (the “overhead” on this fiasco will probably be over 50%…remember she has to purchase materials and consultation from Hillsdale and its publishing affiliates.) My bet is she rents two planes–one takes off in Vermillion and one takes off in Lemmon. They fly criss cross over the state and kick out bales of 50$ bills.

  22. DaveFN 2022-07-09 15:39

    Arlo Blundt

    Where do you suppose a proposed $900,000 figure came from and where would it go?

    1. Give each of your 1000 teachers a $500 bonus (about one percent of a SD high school teacher’s annual salary) as an incentive to develop new course materials = $500,000 total;

    2. Use the remainder ($900,000 -500,000 = $400,000) to pay off Hillsdale for licensing or other behind-the-scenes arrangements, consultants, for bonuses to SD administrators who manage to get their teachers “on board,” etc;

    Not that monetary incentives to all 1000 of your teachers are necessary, of course. Incentivize a majority and the others will likely fall in line by contagion, if not receive a disincentive for failing to do so, one way or another.


  23. Arlo Blundt 2022-07-09 16:51

    Well…DaveFN..that’s probably the plan, you’ve read it right. But….knowing classroom teachers from my experience of presenting a couple hundred “beginning of the school year” workshops and summer institutes, the chore for Gov. Noem and the Hillsdale Taliban is once you corral the teachers, propagandize them, have them swear loyalty to the Governor and her theocratic vision, and give them 500 bucks (more likely renewal or graduate credit, most likely through Hillsdale) how do you keep them on board. They are an independent thinking, rather surly bunch, who believe they’ve “heard it all” because, after a few years in teaching, they have .Believe me, they will be quite selective in what they pick and choose to implement out of the curriculum, if that’s in fact what it is, that Hillsdale presents. Their watch word is :”This too, shall pass.”

    Administrators to bribe??? Dangerous ground. I hope they try. In the 100 or so school districts with high schools under 100 (the mean high school enrollment, where 50% are over and 50% are under in South Dakota used to be Kadoka…there has been some consolidation, don’t know what it is now…enrollments in a majority of districts has declined radically in the last thirty years) the Superintendents have a tenure of approximately three years. Its a carousal, with the same guys shifting around from district to district, putting all their fingers in the dike, and getting fired because a school board member didn’t like the price they paid for snow tires for the bus. Some of those guys might take the bait, but it’s likely to put them one more step down the plank, when revealed to their board. At best, the board will reduce their pay by $500 or whatever the bribe is.

    In the 50 or so larger, more stable districts, where tenure for Soops, is typically longer (7-8 years), those guys are smart and savvy and wouldn’t touch this “award” with a ten foot pole. They strive to attain a judicious position and remain above the fray.

    Principals? Well they’ll pack their golf clubs along and discuss the challenges presented while contemplating a 15 foot putt for par. If the heat gets too hot, they have a teacher who will be willing to incorporate this and that part of the curriculum into their instructional activities. They may decide that this curriculum looks a lot like the old “Young Citizens League” which was mandated in the fifties and ask the Legion to present to an assembly on respect and care of the American flag. Generally, they will stand and watch. They will be mostly influenced by what other Principals in their football conference do.

    Now days, most of the larger districts have Curriculum Directors. Superintendents and Principals will gladly opt out of any training and give their Curriculum Director the opportunity. Curriculum Directors are, in the majority, women in their 50’s who have spent the last 30 years advocating for children and classroom teachers and battling idiot ideas from men who have spent their careers avoiding children and classrooms. They are very bright, exceptionally educated and committed. They wear half glasses with gold chains attached on the end of their nose and sensible shoes.This isn’t their first rodeo, either. I would rather be locked in a roomful of rabid wolverines than present a half baked curriculum from Hillsdale College, inspired by political theology rather than improving learner outcomes, to these women. I hope they try.

  24. mike from iowa 2022-07-09 18:56

    Slightly OT, as of July 9th, 2022 the state of Florida is short 9500 teachers and staff. They were short 5k last year. Teachers apparently don’t like being forced to indoctrinate students instead oif teaching them.

  25. Arlo Blundt 2022-07-09 19:05

    No Mike…that’s on topic…older teachers confronted with becoming propagandists, say “Time to retire”. Young teachers entering the profession say, “Why have the hassle.”

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