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Hillsdale Standards Crowd South Dakota Agriculture Out of Fourth-Grade Social Studies

The Board of Education Standards will hold the second of four required public hearings on Monday, November 21, at the Sioux Falls Convention Center on the really bad K-12 social studies curriculum standards Kristi Noem paid Trumpist teacher-hating Hillsdale College to write for South Dakota. As we learned at the first hearing in September in Aberdeen, there is widespread dissatisfaction with these poorly written and pedagogically unsound standards. Far more opponents registered to testify in Aberdeen than could fit into the 90 minutes the board allotted for criticism, so educators and other responsible citizens who wish to speak at the second hearing should jump on the web form the board will open today to register to speak.

Among the opponents testifying at Hearing #2 may be farmers. An eager reader tells me the South Dakota Education Association has put together an explanation of how Noem’s proposed standards would squeeze agriculture out of the fourth-grade social studies classroom:

  • Ground Works/Ag in the Classroom provides free curriculum to 96 percent of the state’s fourth grade classrooms serving 5200 students
  • The free curriculum is aligned to the current fourth grade social studies standards and connects the history of South Dakota to production agriculture.
  • The proposed standards remove SD history from the fourth grade. State history is only sprinkled throughout the lower grades.
  • SD History will only be an elective in high school only if a district can afford to offer it.
  • Because of the other content required to be taught in the proposed standards, schools and teachers will not have time to offer any of the lessons or curriculum offered by Ground Works/Ag in the Classroom.
  • Adoption of the proposed standards means a whole generation of students may not have the opportunity to learn how deeply rooted agriculture is in our state’s history and this puts at risk the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
  • Agriculture is at the cornerstone of South Dakota’s social relationships and how we function as a society. To minimize its influence on our state through watered-down South Dakota History standards is a disservice to our students and a disservice to generations of farmers and ranchers to come.
  • If you care about the future of farming and ranching in South Dakota, encourage the South Dakota Board of Education Standards to return the focus on South Dakota History to the fourth grade [“How Proposed Social Studies Standards Pushes Out Ag in the Classroom,” document attributed to SDEA, received by DFP 2022.10.29].

Hillsdale College doesn’t completely ignore agriculture while marching our kids toward historical revisionism and apartheid. Hillsdale would have first-graders, third-graders, and high schoolers explain agriculture in various ancient civilizations. High school students who can squeeze the proposed South Dakota history elective into their schedules may also get to learn about South Dakota agriculture alongside Joe Foss as part of the war effort on the home front during World War II.

Now I have to admit that I’m a little queasy with the idea of letting the ag-industrial complex infiltrate our social studies classes with their corporate propaganda. But agriculture plays a foundational role in South Dakota history and culture. Students cannot understand South Dakota without understanding agriculture. The Hillsdale standards ignore this core component of studying South Dakota society, just as the standards more generally ignore South Dakota as a subject worth study independent of Hillsdale’s broader campaign to whitewash American history.

Former South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture, major ag-industrial player, and Governor Kristi Noem’s 2022 “Ag Ambassador Award” winner Walt Bones is president emeritus of the Ground Works board. He said in 2019 that this program to promote agriculture in the classroom is really important:

Walt Bones, of Parker, S.D., a former state agriculture secretary and part of a multigenerational crop and livestock farm, is on the Ground Works-Midwest board.

Bones says the program has had sponsors and partners, but needs to double those efforts, including involving the governor’s office.

“Active production agriculturists are 1 percent of the national population,” he says, but there are many support industries and career opportunities. “We want people to understand what’s going on in agriculture,” Bones says [Mikkel Pates, “New South Dakota Ag in the Classroom Program in 102 Schools,” Aberdeen American News, 2019.03.07].

Bones lives near Parker; perhaps Bones will make the short drive to Sioux Falls on November 21 to explain to the Board of Education Standards how South Dakota agriculture is one of the important elements of our current K-12 social studies programs that Hillsdale’s political standards will crowd out of our classrooms.


  1. Donald Pay 2022-11-04

    South Dakota history, the good and the bad, should be mandatory.

  2. Mark Anderson 2022-11-04

    Mediocrity will follow Hillsdale educated students. Just look at Mr. Fury. Bye bye to any good university South Dakota. I’m sure USD in Vermillion will have an introductory course to bring those poorly educated youngsters back from idiocy.

  3. Arlo Blundt 2022-11-04

    Both Donald and Mark are right on target. South Dakota History is rich in examples of representative democracy meeting the challenges of our ecology, economy and diversity. It contains many sad chapters of discrimination and violence against our Native American citizens (citizens since 1924), ethnic minorities, and religious groups.

    Mark’s point is well taken. I suppose with the adoption of the Hillsdale Curriculum my alma mater will have to divise an an introductory course titled “Why the University exists”.

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