How do we know that Hillsdale College professor emeritus William Morrisey wrote the proposed K-12 social studies standards? Because that’s what his $200,000 state contract told him to do:
In accordance with RFP #2660, the Consultant agrees to:
- Develop social studies content standards, including the disciplines of history, civics/government, geography, and economics. The content standards will define the minimum for what teachers ensure students learn through their K-12 education, progressively building students’ understanding year after year.
- In addition to developing standards for K-8 social studies, the Consultant will also develop standards to meet South Dakota’s graduation requirements (at least 1 unit of U.S. History, 1/2 a unit of U.S. Government, 1 1/2 units of social studies elective coursework, and 1/2 a unit of economics) and applicable laws, including SDCL 13-33-4.
- The state’s history and government, including Native American history and tribal government, will be incorporated throughout the K-12 standards. The standards will also incorporate the United States’ founding documents and principles, including the study of key primary sources [links added, emphasis mine; South Dakota Department of Education, contract with William Morrisey, #2022C-426, 2022.03.04, pp. 1–2, annotated by CAH/DFP].
Develop standards—that mandate is more direct than the requirements of the last contract, #2021C-714, which engaged the American Institutes for Research to facilitate the revision of South Dakota’s K-12 social studies standards. That May 2021 contract required more complex deliverables from facilitator Beth Ratway, whose role was clearly not to develop the standards herself but to coordinate the effort of the dozens of South Dakota educators empaneled for that work:
The 2021 contract with AIR made the educator workgroup responsible for developing the standards. Under Deliverable #1, the contract required groups to work on standards for each grade level. Under Deliverable #2, facilitator was to create guides for decision-making and process, but the workgroup members were to decide whether standards needed to be revised and how to revise them. under Deliverable #3, the facilitator was to help the team produce and document their revisions, but the workgroup was to make the recommendations. The facilitator also had to administer compensation for the workgroup members, which at $175 to $225 per member per day, depending on their roles, for 46 members holding several meetings could have eaten up about a third of the $227K contract.
No conditions centering the South Dakota workgroup as the creators of the standards appear in Morrisey’s $200K contract. His contract just says, develop the standards. The contract includes the word facilitate in its list of deliverables—facilitate picking the commission members, facilitate their in-person and online meetings, and facilitate the later public hearings (ah! So South Dakotans get to meet the Michigan author of the standards?)—but those verbs do not specify that the commission should be writing the standards. The contract tells Morrisey to develop the standards.
And from accumulating evidence, it appears that’s what happened: Morrisey wrote the standards based on Hillsdale College’s ideological preferences, with little to no regard for the proper scope and structure of curriculum standards or good educational practice and no practical, creative input from South Dakota educators or even the commission members he helped pick.
The proposed standards are not a South Dakota product. The local educators who produced the 2021 draft put too much thinking and too many Indians in their work. Noem’s Department of Education rewrote the standards-development contract to sideline South Dakota educators and ensure that an outside consultant would develop the political document that Governor Noem desired.