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Amidst Vocal Opposition, Board Postpones Public Hearing on “Divisive Concepts” Rule, Does Not Announce Make-up Date

The state Board of Education Standards was supposed to hold a public hearing Monday on proposed rule changes “to prohibit the adoption of content standards that promote inherently divisive concepts and revise language regarding waivers of administrative rules.” The rule changes would codify the examples of “divisive concepts” that Governor Kristi Noem uses as political props in her fight against what she lazily and incorrectly calls “critical race theory“. The rule changes would also strike two instances in administrative rule of the word equity, which Noem’s Department of Education considers divisive.

The deadline for public comment on these proposed rule changes was Wednesday, August 17. The South Dakota Education Association said the proposed language would prohibit constructive classroom discussions of bias, racism, classism, sexism, and bigotry, things we kinda sorta hafta talk about with kids to make sure kids don’t fall for those bad things. The American Civil Liberties Union expressed its opposition to the vague, politicizing, racist, and unconstitutional changes. South Dakota Voices for Justice saw the rule changes as an effort by the Governor to circumvent the Legislature’s rejection of a similar proposal last March and was mobilizing people to submit comments and attend Monday’s meeting to express their opposition to these vague, speech-chilling rules.

Yesterday afternoon, the Board of Education Standards canceled Monday’s meeting. The board, which Noem further rigged to do her bidding in April, says it’s just postponing the meeting “to review comments that have been submitted,” but the board did not announce a new date for this required public hearing.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader has requested copies of the public comment submitted to the board. It should be interesting to see just how many comments the board received, how much of that comment is unfavorable or favorable to the proposed rule changes, and just how much notice the board will give of the rescheduled meeting so the SDEA, ACLU, SDVJ, and everyone else who wanted to speak on these rules can rearrange their schedules to participate in this important process. Even if the board members have a lot of comment to read, they perhaps should set a meeting date now: a deadline may help board members focus their attention on studying the public comment received so far and preparing for the public discussion we need on this issue. Plus, the Board will have its hands full with public hearings on the proposed Hillsdale social studies standards shortly, so they ought to confront and resolve this rule change and get it off their desk promptly, before they have to turn to the broader, more complicated issue of the social studies standards.


  1. Donald Pay 2022-08-20 09:22

    It appears that the concept of “divisive concepts” is a “divisive concept.” Should it be excised from state rules?

    Thanks to Noem’s word salad students may no longer discuss the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, anything to do with the Civil War or, really, much of anything else in US or South Dakota history. The history of water policy in South Dakota is incredibly interesting…and divisive. Can’t teach that. How can you teach the history of gold or uranium mining in South Dakota without dealing with many divisive issues?

  2. leslie 2022-08-20 11:40

    staring at the fragility and extraordinary attitudes and spine of my 6th and 8th grade grandkids wondering at how Republican government is hoping to recruit them to “make amurica great again, again”.

    that’s whatcha git when yah nominate pop stars w/no education to higher office in a little red state. pack the school boards! yeah, that’s the next big thing

  3. All Mammal 2022-08-20 11:41

    I highly suspect this stunt will be pulled come time for the governor to face Mr. Smith in the one debate she agreed to.

    It’d be nice if she could walk the walk and quit being a waste of everyone’s time. Kids are starting school and there are no teachers and Anti Kristi wants to prance around. What a sick, twisted puppy.

    Focus, for the love of sea manatee!

  4. Donald Pay 2022-08-20 11:55

    Serendipity. Shakespeare!!!

    “Virtue is chok’d with foul ambition, and charity chas’d hence by rancour’s hand; foul subordination is predominant, and equity exci’d your highness’ land. —Henry VI, Part Two.

    I found this Shakespeare quote in John Nichols’ book, entitled Coronavirus Criminals And Pandemic Profiteers.” He has a chapter on Kristi Noem, and the passage from Henry VI, Part II is the epigraph encapsulates the reasons for Noem’s floundering during the pandemic. It also encapsulates a lot of what ails South Dakota under Queen Kristi.

    Shakespeare was into equity, as indicated in that quote. Noem is for banning discussions of “equity” from school. Shakespeare wrote a lot about how to weigh out (“a pound of flesh”) what is equitable in society and in human relations. Noem wants no one to mention it in the classroom. One must wonder how much of Shakespeare would be cast into Noem’s burn pit, banned from being considered if “equity” is not to be mentioned in the classroom.

  5. All Mammal 2022-08-20 12:32

    Mr. Pay- Please consider using your teaching prowess to help with the teacher shortage in SD. You are utterly qualified. I think most participants on Mr. H’s paper, including Mr. H are qualified and should there be an emergency declared, all should consider tutoring or aiding in the education of our little squirts.

  6. 96Tears 2022-08-20 12:42

    The damage being done by Noem is immeasurable, first, because it is 100 percent founded upon a big lie. Secondly, it has taken nearly a century to move away from the white race sanitized versions of what children and young adults were taught as American history and civics to where it is today. Noem’s allegations of what is taught in our schools is false. If anything, public school instruction probably still has a very long way to go to catch up with what is an accurate history of North America. Yet, Noem wants to pull the hands of time back to censored history that white people — especially under-educated white supremacists — would not find divisive or intimidating.

    Lately there’s been attention drawn to the Papal Bull “Inter Caetera,” issued by Pope Alexander VI on May 4, 1493. It is probably unknown by the vast majority of Americans. Yet it is the official order of the Church to conquer the New World for Spain and to overturn any societies and convert all inhabitants to become Roman Catholics. The following is from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History on the Bull’s other name, the Doctrine of Discovery.

    “This ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ became the basis of all European claims in the Americas as well as the foundation for the United States’ western expansion. In the US Supreme Court in the 1823 case Johnson v. McIntosh, Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinion in the unanimous decision held ‘that the principle of discovery gave European nations an absolute right to New World lands.’ In essence, American Indians had only a right of occupancy, which could be abolished.

    “The Bull Inter Caetera made headlines again throughout the 1990s and in 2000, when many Catholics petitioned Pope John Paul II to formally revoke it and recognize the human rights of indigenous ‘non-Christian peoples.'”

    This summer, the current Pope journeyed to North America to apologize for the human miseries created in the 19th and 20th Centuries by the abusive and deadly schools the Church established in Canada and the United States to continue the evil work demanded by the Bull Inter Caetera. In other words, the falsehoods and evil rooted in the 15th Century still have not been reconciled by 21st Century Americans.

    My fifth and sixth grade American history and social studies classes referenced the Bull by another name: “Manifest Destiny.” It was the term used in class to gloss over the “why” of European expansion in North America and the suppression of our continent’s first inhabitants. Broken treaties and the exiling of nations to tiny, undesirable tracts of land still get glossed over. This pablum view of the conquering of the American West sets the stage for the movie and TV cartoonish glorification and indoctrination of the myth of cowboys and cavalry soldiers chasing Injuns through the deserts and prairies.

    My own pablum view of American history came to a grinding halt when I picked up a copy of Dee Brown’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” and I saw American history through a very different and far more accurate lens. At the time, I was a senior in high school. This book is widely accepted for its accuracy and objectivity. Brown didn’t need to express opinions about the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado. Those actions spoke very clearly, and what those white soldiers did to those peaceful Cheyenne should shame generations of all Americans. I wish I had read that book when I was in 7th grade. I don’t know why it isn’t required reading in public schools, but it should be.

    It was also when I was in high school that I first visited my aunt and cousins in the Deep South. They would come to South Dakota for visits in the summer, but I didn’t know much about their culture until I stayed a couple weeks on their farm with my siblings. “You got to be careful what you say around here,” she said, glancing out the kitchen window. “Folks around here still haven’t accepted they lost the Civil War.” This was more than 30 years ago. My cousins told me they didn’t learn much about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement in school. A lot of people, my aunt said, believed that those slaves were happier on the plantations than in the crowded cities and ghettos.

    I don’t want to bore you with more personal anecdotes. But what is a core truth of American history taught in K-12 in South Dakota and across the nation is it’s not a deep dive into what happened in the United States. It covers basics and students are encouraged to read and learn more, depending on the intelligence and worldliness of each instructor. Kristi Noem claims it’s gone too far, or is on the verge of going too far — yet she’s not offering any proof or examples how CRT is a threat in South Dakota and what defines going too far.

    All we know is what she calls “divisive concepts,” a completely subjective blur that is incapable of becoming a credible standard.

    There is only one reason Noem is ramming into law this white supremacist’s dream come true agenda with little or no public input. It can’t stand on its own and falls flat on any objective inspection. She needs it for her presidential campaign to feed raw meat to rednecks in Trump’s base. I think it’s criminal theft to spend $200,000 to pay for Hillsdale’s racist hackery. Noem is running down the clock to slip this massive mistake across the finish line.

    Have any newspaper editorials said anything about this yet? Why not? Time is running out very quickly.

  7. mike from iowa 2022-08-20 13:10

    Floriduh’s social studies teachers are being told the US was the recipient of 4% of the total slave numbers and the majority oif them were born in America. Amoing other nonsense.

  8. O 2022-08-20 13:15

    A big unforced error on the Governor’s part was to order an investigation of her assertion of CRT et al being taught in SD (let’s call it the medium lie). The executive order was a response to the liberal infiltration of CRT into the decent schools of SD and even without the help of the legislature, the Governor was going to save our children. Then the report on CTR hit — worse yet, it could no longer be suppressed.

    Just like President Trump’s big lie, a false threat was created to justify actions to grab inappropriate power; in this case, Orwellian political power over education, and just as President Trump’s big lie was exposed in court after court, Governor Noem’s medium lie is laid bare in her own commissioned report.

    This has never been about protecting children from divisive concepts; it has always been about protecting MAGAS from the threats reality holds to their fantastical narratives.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-20 13:18

    America was founded in violent division. America remains rife with divisive concepts. I would like to believe that the American enterprise is to demonstrate the possibility of living amidst divisive concepts, of discussing and perhaps resolving to some workable degree our various divisions without censorship, oppression, or violence.

  10. Nancy Ogle 2022-08-20 13:30

    The whole basis of teaching history is to explain why the world is as it is now. All of civilizations actions have build on top of each other to build society what it is now.
    If.all we teach is facts(dates, names,etc) and never show the consequences of what really happened we are doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
    I don’t know about you but there is a lot of history we don’t need to be repeated.

  11. larry kurtz 2022-08-20 13:30

    Republicans have apparently forgotten that the ground they live on was seized from aboriginal cultures by liberal democrat, President Thomas Jefferson through an executive order that even he believed was unconstitutional.

    Yes, it never ceases to amuse how Republicans paint Democrats as the party of slavery then praise the slavers who penned not just the Bill of Rights but the Declaration of Independence, too.

  12. O 2022-08-20 13:34

    I would also like to throw out there a reminder that these MAGAs are the same people who LOVE to have our teachers “teach the controversy” when it comes to accepted hard science: deny global warming and/or global warming is not affected by people, Intelligent design not evolution . . . BUT in matters of social science and true controversy, onlyTHEIR singular, preferred point-of-view can be acceptable in a classroom.

    And they would not want any student to feel excluded or uncomfortable . . . unless they have a gender identity conformity difference or don’t trust in the god whose sign hangs in the building they attend.

    This is NOT about education. This is not about children. This is all about political power.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2022-08-20 14:25

    I’m a little stunned by this reaction by an appointed state board which should have been politically greased to make a quick affirmative position adopting the “Hillsdale Standards” without much discussion. The Noem appointed State Superintendent was in the room to assure a quick affirmative response by the board. KABLOOIE. There must have been unified opposition from the SDEA, Associated School Boards, and Administrators Association, plus withering criticism from the public at large, and perhaps a few long in the tooth university education, history, and government professors. The critical shortage of actual teachers in our public schools probably served as emphasis to their positions. Governor Noem and her highly paid out of state staff and advisors were sleeping at the switch and had little standing with this board. It is a wonderful, though partial and temporary outcome, proving that we do still have some folks around willing to think critically. Can Governor Noem divert her national campaign and dedicate the time and energy to force this outrage through??

  14. Donald Pay 2022-08-20 15:18

    I had some misspellings in my copying of The Bard, as I was squinting to decipher and copy the quote I gave above at 11.55. Also, I was hungry and needing to get down to throwing together our luncheon. One must never misquote Shakespeare, so here is the real and proper quote from Henry VI, Part Two:

    “Virtue is chok’d with foul ambition, and charity chas’d hence by rancour’s hand; foul subornation is predominant, and equity excil’d your highness’ land,”

    I had substitutied “subordination” in for “subornation.” That changed the meaning. Shakespeare’s words are much more direct and true of Noem.

  15. CK 2022-08-20 16:26

    Any educators who wished to submit public comment were gently reminded to not use their k12 or school emails, to prevent retribution.

  16. Amy B. 2022-08-20 17:10

    Does anyone besides me think that they are going to postpone this indefinitely and hope this just kind of fades away. Either so they can have it and hope people will have forgotten about it or are occupied by something else so they don’t show up…. or they just don’t reschedule and just let it “go away”. I can’t imagine any other reason to postpone this other than there were ALOT of negative comments.

  17. 96Tears 2022-08-20 17:27

    This just in from the WaPost, the new quarterly top 10 GOP presidential possibilities for 2024:

    1. Ron DeSantis (by a hair)
    2. Donald Trump
    3. Mike Pence
    4. Tim Scott
    5. Glenn Youngkin
    6. Ted Cruz
    7. Nikki Haley
    8. Rick Scott
    9. Mike Pompeo
    10. Donald Trump Jr.

    Booby prizes for others considered, but (yawn) didn’t seem to a blip on the GOP radar: Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Josh Hawley, Sen. Ben Sasse, Sen. Tom Cotton, Rep. Liz Cheney, Gov. Chris Sununu, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Gov. Kristi L. Noem, Gov. Larry Hogan, Gov. Greg Abbott and Chris Christie. Governor Noem, you was robbed!!!

    Kristi’s tossing her state’s education system under the bus, and is this all she gets from her fellow Trumpanzees? The booby prize? No loyalty!

    Apparently, she’s got to do a better, whack-a-doodlier job of wrecking South Dakota to get any rating from her ilk.

    Don’t fret, kitten. Ol’ 96 has got ya! You need to stay on that borrowed jet and do a better job working the campaign trail away from us peasants here in flyover country. We know you think we’re just a bunch of losers. Me and the grudzmeister will watch the store. See ya in December!

  18. Otter 2022-08-20 17:55

    Subornation! Word of the day! Or perhaps, era!
    Thank you Shakespeare and Donald Pay!

  19. DaveFN 2022-08-20 20:33

    A just society must tolerate the intolerant, for otherwise, the society would then itself be intolerant, and thus unjust. —-John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, 1971

    At least in principle. In practice, Rawls appends a caveat: “While an intolerant sect does not itself have title to complain of intolerance, its freedom should be restricted only when the tolerant sincerely and with reason believe that their own security and that of the institutions of liberty are in danger.”

    This caveat echoes a paradox posed decades earlier:

    “Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.” –Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 1945.

    Popper concluded “We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right to not tolerate the intolerant.”

  20. Francis Schaffer 2022-08-20 20:55

    96 Tears
    Thank you for reminding everyone about the role of the catholic church with the Doctrine of Discovery being enshrined by the Supreme Court into US law. Maybe being Christian should be based upon actions and inactions instead of, declaring to be a Christian as proof. Maybe church’s tax exempt status should be judged by their congregants following the tenets of their declared religious beliefs.

  21. P. Aitch 2022-08-20 21:11

    That equity that’s a dangerous idea, huh? Equity means equal and you know where that leads, South Dakota.
    – The second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence starts as follows: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

  22. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-21 11:10

    Amy, yes, the postponement is suspicious. I would think public comment deadlines and meeting dates are set to anticipate significant public comment and to give board members time to read it all.

    Besides, the Board should already have a had a sense that there would be lots of negative comment given the strong opposition that turned out last winter when the Legislature considered these same restrictions in ultimately rejected House Bill 1337.

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