By engaging conservative Hillsdale College to rewrite the state’s K-12 social studies standards, South Dakota is following a pattern established in other states where the Michigan ideology mill is working to insinuate its public education-hating Trumpism. If South Dakota is lucky, that pattern will evolve the way it is in Tennessee, where Hillsdale president Larry Arnn’s denigration of teachers is rousing opposition:
The president of Michigan’s Hillsdale College was riding high earlier this year when he announced plans to launch 50 charter schools in Tennessee after Gov. Bill Lee originally asked for 100.
Six months later, that relationship has cooled after Hillsdale’s Larry Arnn made disparaging comments about educators, telling an audience including Lee that teachers “are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges.”
The comments inspired outrage among lawmakers, teachers and other public school advocates already skeptical of the plans. Now the Republican governor – long known as a charter school and voucher advocate – has distanced himself from Arnn, leaving the fate of charters connected to the small, conservative college in doubt.
Since Arnn’s comments, three Hillsdale-affiliated charter school applications in Tennessee have been rejected by school boards in Jackson-Madison, Clarksville-Montgomery and Rutherford counties [Kimnerlee Kruesi, “Tennessee’s Embrace of Michigan’s Conservative Hillsdale College Sours,” AP via Detroit News, 2022.07.30].
The Hillsdale plants are appealing their charter school rejections to Tennessee’s Public Charter School Commission. One of the rejected schools hilariously accuses its local school board of inserting politics into the application process, when the whole point of the Hillsdale curriculum is to introduce its conservative politics into the history classroom.
Hillsdale College hasn’t announced any plans to open charter schools in South Dakota yet. (Arnn says Governor Kristi Noem has offered to build Hillsdale an entire satellite in South Dakota, but Hillsdale would never, ever use state resources to promote its private agenda.) Hillsdale is starting a Trumpy private school north of the border in Fargo this fall. And the whole point of having Hillsdale graft its hyperpolitical “1776 Project” onto South Dakota’s state standards is to give its curriculum and worldview an advantage in the marketplace. No major textbooks or classroom materials are aligned to Hillsdale’s “standards”. When South Dakota rubber-stamps Hillsdale’s “standards”, public schools will suddenly find themselves sandbagged with social studies textbooks that don’t align with state standards. Conscientious public school teachers will resist using Hillsdale’s politicized materials; private schools eager to push the white patriarchal theocracy will happily offer Hillsdale’s 1776 Project materials and winkingly declare, “See? Our curriculum upholds the state standards better than your public schools do!”
The rubber-stamp Republican-heavy, teacher-light committee chosen by Governor Kristi Noem to rubber-stamp Hillsdale’s “standards” for South Dakota held another closed meeting last week Wednesday at the Sioux Falls Downtown Holiday Inn. The committee and the Noem Administration have shared no information about the standards process since the new committee was named in April.