For over a year, we’ve been begging Governor Kristi Noem to give us examples of any teacher anywhere in South Dakota endangering students with her great bugaboo, critical race theory, and other radical leftist falsehoods in our schools. Governor Noem has never given any examples. Her entire Department of Education spent three months looking and didn’t find any examples.
Just in time for the fall campaign season, Noem has finally found a culprit—nay, the culprit, the one South Dakotan she can identify as actively promoting critical race theory in South Dakota. Coincidentally, that one culprit happens to be the one man running against her for Governor, Representative Jamie Smith:
“Fact:” says Noem, “Jamie Smith actively promoted the training of Critical Race Theory within our state.” Noem’s ad voicer says, “Jamie Smith even voted to bring CRT to our kids’ classrooms.”
Fact: Noem is lying.
If you squint below the one-liner, you’ll see Noem cites 2022 House Bill 1337 and Smith’s February 15 nay vote thereon to back this claim. HB 1337 was one of Noem’s two school thought-control bills this Session. Neither Noem’s original version of HB 1337 nor the watered-down House version mentions “critical race theory”. The words “critical race theory” do not appear in HB 1337. The Trump-begotten “divisive concepts” enumerated and forbidden by HB 1337 do not constitute tenets of critical race theory.
The 50 members of the House who voted for HB 1337 were thus not voting to keep critical race theory out of South Dakota. HB 1337 would still have allowed discussions of critical race theory in curricula, instruction, standards, and training in critical race theory, if anyone ever wanted to bring up a graduate-level law school concept in a kindergarten classroom. Even the “divisive concepts” HB 1337 purported to forbid could still discussed and debated in K-12 classrooms, as long as no one was forced to adopt those concepts.
More importantly, the 18 members of the House (Smith and the other seven Democrats plus ten Republicans) who voted against HB 1337 were not “actively promoting” the training of anything, be it the explicitly stated “divisive concepts” or the never-mentioned “critical race theory.” Those 18 Representatives and the four Senate Education Committee members who killed HB 1337—Democrat Troy Heinert and Republicans V.J. Smith, Kyle Schoenfish, and R. Blake Curd—were not voting to “bring CRT to South Dakota.” They were voting not to pass a problematic and poorly worded bill that sought to stifle debate and intellectual inquiry.
We can demonstrate the falsehood of Noem’s ad by considering this analogy: Suppose Noem proposes a bill to ban Romulans from South Dakota (or maybe not Romulans, but just “divisive aliens carrying batleths”, who would more likely be Klingons, but Noem doesn’t know her Trek any better than her critical race theory—but let’s not overcomplicate the analogy). Suppose Smith and 21 other legislators vote against that anti-Romulan bill. Smith and his fellow sensible legislators are not saying, “Romulans, come to South Dakota!” They aren’t spooling up their transporters and beaming Romulans into our classrooms. They are probably saying, “We don’t need to ban Romulans from South Dakota because the Romulans are a figment of Kristi’s imagination!” (Or maybe the Republicans voting against the bill are saying the Romulan ban is too soft and that we should declare war and wipe out the Romulans while we have the chance.)
Representative Jamie Smith’s vote against House Bill 1337 on February 15 (and Larry Tidemann’s, and Mike Derby’s, and Tamara St. John’s…) did not actively promote critical race theory. Representative Jamie Smith (and Jess Olson, and Roger Chase, and Doug Barthel…) did not vote to “bring CRT to our kids’ classrooms.” They just voted against a garbage bill designed to tee up lazy, lying campaign ads. Kristi Noem’s claim to the contrary is exactly that sort of lazy campaign lie.