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Jeff Struwe: Hillsdale Standards “Truly Magnificent and Well Researched”

On Thursday I wrote that the fundamental flaw in the proposed social standards that conservative Hillsdale College and Governor Kristi Noem want to impose on our K-12 students is that it focuses on facts, not concepts. I invoked my seventh-grade social studies teacher, Mr. Merle “Pete” Struwe, who bluntly and memorably taught me that very principle on my first day of class at Madison Junior High School in 1983.

One of Mr. Struwe’s sons, Jeff, invokes his dad’s name to lend authority to his expression of support for the Hillsdale standards:

I have read the entire syllabus for future Social Study instruction from K-12. I find this a truly magnificent and well researched for our youth. All ages and grades. I have spoken specifically with one of the authors and he is excited about this program. It was also imperative to include Native American studies into this process.

As my father taught Social Studies for 37 years in Madison, I feel I have some skin in the game. Students and teachers should be excited with the guidelines this new study presents.

I urge The Board to fully accept this new Social Study program [Jeff Struwe, public written comment, submitted to the South Dakota Board of Education Standards, published 2022.09.16, p. 50].

Jeff says he talked with one of the authors—that’s funny: I thought there was only one author, William Morrisey. I’d love to learn more about that conversation. I’d also love to hear from Jeff what research he thinks went into producing these standards, especially since  most if not all of the research was done before the state workgroup started meeting behind closed doors. The standards document cites no sources, so how does Jeff know it was well researched?

Jeff’s dad died last year, before either the Hillsdale standards or the homegrown first revision that they supplanted were published, so we can’t get Mr. Struwe’s educatorial opinion. But Jeff, who would have sat in that same social studies classroom 15 years before I did, appears to have drawn different lessons from his dad’s teaching than I did.


  1. Jackilope 2022-09-17 08:11

    South Dakota Education Association & SD educators & American Historical Association are the experts have soundly determined the Hillsdale standards unfit to serve students in SD.

    We all know this is a partisan whitewashing & undermining public education stunt. We know Gov. Noem is pursuing this to rise in ranks with an extremist group that is out to gut public education.

    Let’s focus on the discernment of those in the field of education and experts.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-09-17 08:18

    Sturgis Middle School science teacher Patrick Cass, who who helped draft the current social studies standards that Hillsdale and Noem are tearing up, says the Hillsdale standards are not based on good research:

    I am a former member of the Social Studies Content Standards revision committee. The standards I worked on were adopted in August of 2015. I am disappointed that the teachers that were brought together to revise these standards in 2021 had their work thrown out the window. The process in place to revise standards was tried and true but for some reason it was completely overruled this time. Very few teachers were involved in the creation of these new standards and they do not use research based methods to best educate our students. If they are adopted it is a giant step backwards for our students and the process used to revise standards [Patrick Cass, public written comment, submitted to the South Dakota Board of Education Standards, published 2022.09.16, p. 99].

  3. LCJ 2022-09-17 08:28

    Are you talking about the same SDEA that has done zip to keep teachers in SD from being at the bottom of the nations pay rate ?
    Sorry, no credibility there. They need to get a backbone and hire good negotiators.

  4. Justin 2022-09-17 09:52

    I never sat for any of Mr. Struwe’s classes. But I did work as a bartender/casino attendant at one his regular hangouts and saw him often in the years before he died. Based on the way he reacted to topics in the news I was watching, and the one time I saw him get visibly angry at the notion that a uniformed military officer would testify against his commander in chief during the time that Colonel Vindman was before Congress, I would guess that Mr. Struwe endorsed a somewhat more authoritarian viewpoint than your recollection of his classroom behavior might suggest.

  5. Loti 2022-09-17 10:04

    Parents will put their faith in educators teaching their children. Social Studies should be accurate as possible. Many students will only recall some of what they learned in the classroom but also recall stories their parents and grandparents tell them. I wish i could recall more than being told about Columbus and the earliest US presidents, smiles. My Native mom who passed in 2017, was 4yo before the US allowed her to be a citizen.

  6. Bob Newland 2022-09-17 10:07

    Jeff sounds like a MAGA adherent, looking at the moon and a black sky and saying it’s noon.

  7. All Mammal 2022-09-17 11:10

    That sucks. Sorry your teach might not have been what we all praised the other day in regards to your A Christmas Story-esque reverie of your school daze, Mr. H.
    Reminds me of the Foo Fighters’ There Goes My Hero. I find it sad and hard not to get let down and feel my world get a little rocked when it happens to me.

    It is also a huge let down finding things out like Loti points out long after covering that era in time in your history classes. It is like being robbed. You don’t want to learn how your beloved country treated (are treating) your people. It is way better to be taught sensitive stuff with dignity at a young age than form your foundation on lies and omitted facts. That makes it a double slap across the face when you do find the truth.

  8. grudznick 2022-09-17 11:11

    Mr. Jackilope, the fellows like Mr. Pogany from the SD Teacher’s Union are not experts.

    Mr. H, 4 straight bloggings about this out-of-state Hillsdale College is 3 bloggings too many.

  9. P. Aitch 2022-09-17 13:22

    SD Motto – “Well, it “IS” South Dakota, ‘ya know.”

    PS – grudzie is angry that he’s not been able to discredit the lies in Fred Deutsch’s flyer about legalizing marijuana again.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-09-17 14:10

    LCJ, the inability of SDEA to muster the political capital necessary to undo all of the damage done by South Dakota’s one-party regime does not call into question their professional assessment of education standards. Neither does any of the success SDEA had in pushing Governor Daugaard and Lee Schoenbeck to support raising the sales tax by a half-penny in 2016 to raise teacher pay.

    Heck, I haven’t figured out how to unseat Republicans and raise teacher pay to 39th in the nation, either, but that doesn’t affect my ability to evaluate curriculum standards or to recognize the gross failure of Hillsdale’s Dr. Morrisey to write pedagogically sound standards for South Dakota’s K-12 classrooms.

  11. P. Aitch 2022-09-17 14:25

    Heck, I haven’t figured out how to unseat Republicans and raise teacher pay to 39th in the nation, either. – The Lincoln Method is a good first step, though.

  12. 96Tears 2022-09-17 15:58

    There is no credible defense of the Hillsdale hackery, starting with its premise: Noem’s racist lie and fear mongering for mouth-breathing pinheads that South Dakota is threatened by Critical Race Theory. I doubt she can spell CRT.

    If South Dakota doesn’t toss William Morrisey and the other grifters at Hillsdale out on their ear, those assclowns will be injecting their toxic, white supremacist baloney into our schools for years to come.

    What’s the alternative to Morrisey’s toxic grift? The time-honored assembly of teachers and real South Dakota education experts who’ve been reviewing and updating South Dakota public education standards for years. If it works (and it has), don’t fix it. Especially, don’t hire a racist right wing hackatorium to run it into the ground and replace it with garbage.

    This is and always has been about creating a cheap talking point for Noem’s presidential campaign. She thinks we are all suckers.

  13. Jackilope 2022-09-17 17:10

    SDEA is comprised of educators serving other educators and the profession to be able to serve students. In a right to work for less state. The history of union undermining and destabilizing unions during Legislative seasons in SD through wined and dined Legislators at ALEC events pushing bills goes on here and other states.

    Do note that the Hillsdale Standards are not just being shoved in South Dakota, but other red states as well and there are other educators in those states fighting the same battle. Demoralize and undermine education and educators and take this public service and rob it of resources so profits can be made pushing a right leaning, white washed political agenda.

  14. Jackilope 2022-09-17 17:27

    Grudz — not that it matters, but my pronouns are she / her. No plans on transitioning to a furry or jackalope. There are SDEA members that are experts and have spoken up in the input process that Cory provided in the other post.

  15. grudznick 2022-09-17 18:11

    Apologies, Ms. Jackilope.

  16. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-17 20:45

    Well, Cory sorry about Mr. Struwe…but you can never know the extant and breadth of Donald Trump’s attraction to people who seem reasonable. I have no explanation for it.

  17. P. Aitch 2022-09-17 20:50

    Don’t be concerned about Pete. Like I said. I know lots of the Strewe clan. There’s some true blue ones and some really red ones. Thus the saying, “It IS South Dakota, ‘ya know.”

  18. lrads1 2022-09-17 21:13

    Grudz, Mr. Pogony, who perhaps was at DOE in your time, is with ASBSD, the school board association, not SDEA. And it’s politicians who get their kicks out of disrespecting the teaching profession that are primarily responsible for the long downhill slide in achievement we see in our SD schools. Thanks for nothing.

  19. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-09-18 07:22

    Arlo, All Mammal, you speak as if Jeff as refuted my appeal to his father’s teaching in my critique of the Hillsdale standards’ fatal pedagogical flaw. But review Jeff’s words: he does not say, “My dad would have supported the Hillsdale standards.” He does not provide any evidence of his dad’s teaching. Jeff only mentions his dad’s long teaching career as if to lend himself some extra authority in discussing good teaching. But the fact that one’s dad was a teacher doesn’t make one an expert on teaching social studies any more than the fact that one sat in a social studies classroom in junior high. “My dad was a teacher, so take my advice on teaching” doesn’t make much more sense than if I said, “My dad is good at fixing engines, so let me fix your truck.”

    I said in my own essay that I was not going to put words in Mr. Struwe’s mouth. I do not claim that Mr. Struwe would have taken my side in this standards debate. But I do cite specific words from Mr. Struwe, a specific bedrock principle that he taught on the first day of class. That statement, that principle, supports my position and undermine’s Jeff’s.

  20. All Mammal 2022-09-18 13:34

    Mr. H- gotcha. I think I was basing my lamentations more from Justin’s comment about his experience with the late teacher. I know a grip of my childhood experiences were remembered fondly to later find out the people I admired were not noble and are really awful. It was a let down and I had to move on. If someone experiences that similar disappointment, I can relate.

  21. Cole 2022-11-12 16:21

    Is this Jeff Struwe of Brookings SD, married to Susan?

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