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Belle Fourche Educators: Hillsdale Standards Not Age-Appropriate, Narrow Education, Cost Too Much

Butte County is 65% Republican, 21% independent, and 13% Democratic. You’d think Butte County Republicans would be lapping up Governor Kristi Noem’s peddling of the Republican war on “critical race theory”.

But in the Belle Fourche school district, which makes up the western half of Butte County and accounts for most of Butte County’s population, Noem’s trafficking of our school children to Michigan’s ideological Hillsdale College isn’t going over very well.

At last week’s Belle Fourche school board meeting, district curriculum and assessment coordinator Angela Reder said the Hillsdale standards that Noem is trying to force into K-12 social studies classrooms ignored South Dakota’s existing standards, educators, and educational practices (yes, that sounds familiar) and produced wildly age-inappropriate standards:

Reder said first-grade currently has 13 standards. In the new, proposed standards, first grade would have 113 standards to meet.

A proposed civics/economics standard is that, “The student can give examples of virtues and actions related to hard work, personal potential, and individual independence.”

The current standard is to, “Identify our country’s flag of the United States as a symbol of the nation.”

These are both kindergarten standards.

A proposed history standard is that, “The student identifies the developments and achievements of the high Middle Ages, including the power of papacy and the founding of mendicant orders.”

“Does anyone want me to explain two words in there?” Reder said, as the board chuckled.

She then defined mendicant as a member of a religious order that vows to poverty, a life of poverty, and asked the board what grade level they assumed this standard was for.

One board member said 10th grade.

The current standard is to, “Compare how holidays are celebrated in different cultures.”

These are both second-grade standards.

“There’s just overwhelming feedback from educators challenging the age-appropriateness and the developmental understanding of these standards.” Reder said [Sidnee Short, “Belle School Board Concerned over Proposed Social Studies Standards,” Black Hills Pioneer, updated 2022.10.17].

Belle Fourche high school history teacher Mike Kane, who served on the original educator-led workgroup to revise the social studies standards, only to see his group’s work hijacked and discarded by the Governor without consultation, says the Hillsdale standards are educationally weaker:

Kane then spoke on his opinions of the proposed history standards compared to the ones his committee came up with in 2020.

“They’re asking us to paint a very narrow picture of history, and history’s not a very narrow picture. It’s a really broad, wide picture.” Kane said [Short, 2022.10.17].

Note that Reder and Kane aren’t making partisan complaints; they are speaking from a purely educational perspective, saying that for all the trivia disguised as “classical education” that Hillsdale wants South Dakota, the standards are still a pedagogically inferior document that will weaken our kids’ education.

Reder says the Hillsdale standards will also end up costing school districts big money:

Reder said if the proposed standards were adopted, there’s only one curriculum to provide the materials and is capable of properly implementing these standards; the premade curriculum from Hillsdale College.

She said that curriculum would cost more than $9 million to purchase, to implement, and to train teachers.

Gov. Kristi Noem has set aside $800,000 for this endeavor.

“So, where does the rest of the money come from?” Reder asked. “Out of your pockets” [Short, 2022.10.17].

Ah, cost—maybe that’s the reason even Belle Fourche’s Republicans may not be as eager as Governor Noem to impose Hillsdale’s standards on their schools. Maybe Belle Fourche’s Republicans realize we can teach better social studies for less money by rejecting the out-of-state ideologues and trusting our own South Dakota teachers to write our standards and teach our kids.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-10-19

    Driving students from public schools is exactly Mrs. Noem’s wish, right?

  2. Donald Pay 2022-10-19

    It doesn’t matter if Butte County is 65% Republican or 65% Democrat. I think everyone wants a good education for their children.

    I’m not sure that getting into mendicant orders in elementary school is appropriate. Historically, the mendicant orders encouraged begging, rather than productive work that the monastic orders engaged in. Do we want to encourage people sitting on islands with begging signs over people who work for a living?

  3. Mark Anderson 2022-10-19

    Donald, how do you define trust fund babies?

  4. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-10-19

    Somebody ought to sit Kristi’s b*tt down in an auditorium full of educators and test HER to the Hillsdale Standards. She’d be screaming within ten minutes.

  5. P. Aitch 2022-10-19

    Well. This curriculum needs to be tested on white kids, somewhere. Where better than your state? Hmmmmm …?

  6. Arlo Blundt 2022-10-19

    I lived in Butte County for a couple years. I found the people very conservative fiscally and very traditional in their political views. I also found them to hold honesty in very high regard and to be very skeptical of hucksters and hustlers. The Hillsdale Curriculum is a huckster’s dream, a traveling salesman hustle. I think the people in Belle will see it for what it is.

  7. grudznick 2022-10-19

    grudznick has a number of good buddies in the Newell area, and I agree with Mr. Blundt that those fellows are fiscally conservative, with common sense, and would probably take an urban huckster like Mr. Smith out behind the sheep shed for some schooling, indeed.

  8. Arlo Blundt 2022-10-20

    Well…that’s funny Grudznick, I think the folks in Newell would like Mr. Smith. He’s up front, not conniving, a fat guy who likes a joke, and doesn’t wear a high hat. In my years there, I became acquainted with Harry and the Sprague Brothers, and stayed away from any shearing sheds.

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