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Walder: Noem’s Hillsdale Standards Violate Conservative Principles and State Law on Local Control

Tea elementary principal Dr. Samantha Walder served on Governor Kristi Noem’s K-12 social studies standards review commission, the 15-member educator-light panel Noem rigged to rubber-stamp the generic Trumpist standards written by Michigan’s private right-wing Hillsdale College. Dr. Walder testified against these bad standards in September, saying the process marginalized educators and advanced standards without even a formal vote of the commission.

At the second public hearing by the Board of Education Standards on these social studies standards, held today in Sioux Falls, Dr. Walder wanted to expand on her criticism of the Hillsdale standards, saying they violate conservative principles and possibly state law. Time constraints prevented Dr. Walder from speaking in person, but here is Dr. Walder’s written statement:

My name is Dr. Samantha Walder and I am in my 15th year in education, 8th as an elementary principal, and served as the only principal on the SS Standards Revision Commission. I represent myself as an appointed commission member. 

As I shared with my commission colleagues, I am concerned about a fundamental shift in recommending curriculum, not standards. 

To be clear, today is part of the standards adoption process and not a curriculum review. According to state law, our secretary of the Department of Education shall prepare and submit for approval by the Board of Education, a standards revision cycle and content standards. All the public schools in the state shall provide instruction in substantial conformity to the accreditation benchmarks adopted. Schools need accreditation for funding and to ensure graduates have valid degrees. 

Furthermore, as outlined in State Law directing the DOE to promulgate rules and requirements for accreditation, the legislative intent is clear on local control. “Nothing [in this section] authorizes the board to require the use of specifically designated curriculum or methods of instruction.” This language is direct from our Legislature and puts trust in the local educators. Through policy, teachers are held accountable by principals who are held accountable by Superintendents and School Boards to make the best decisions for their community.

Although many will bring up other concerns with the proposal, I turn your attention to the unprecedented over-reach into our classrooms.

Assignments such as, “Students can write an informative essay of 500- 700 words on a historical figure”. may be perfectly appropriate assignments chosen by teachers in a classroom after the school board adopts curriculum. Just as I testified to your Governing Board in 2017, Standards are not curriculum. Standards are not textbooks. Standards are not assignments. Standards are written to guide schools in their work and, in South Dakota, allow local districts to determine their own curriculum or method of instruction. 

This assignment is one of many, many lines in this proposal that would require a specific assignment or method of instruction. 

The discussion at the SD Board of Educational Standards should NOT be about a classical education method of instruction or which foundational documents of democracy should be in a curriculum. Local teachers and administrators can already make these choices and are doing so within our current standards and accreditation accountability system. Schools choose any model method of instruction and curriculum to meet the standards and are held accountable by accreditation from the DOE. For example, we have Lakota Immersion, Spanish immersion, Mass Customized Learning or STEM-based pathways, Online, self-contained or content- specialized elementary classrooms, and the list of the unique methods of instruction used in South Dakota is as diverse as our great State. 

My 14-year-old daughter is here with me today. I want her to know that no matter which “winds of change” are coming politically, in South Dakota we uphold the civic processes with checks and balances to preserve the next generation’s ability to trust they are heard as part of the process. I want Leah to stay in South Dakota no matter which industry she chooses and know that her expertise will be valued when decisions are made. We are setting precedence here for much more than our education system. 

If adopted the social studies pseudo-standards would be an unprecedented subversion of local control and outside the realm of the conservative principle our State prides itself on. This proposal is to fix something that is not broken in South Dakota Schools. 

Members of the Board of Educational standards, please help us to put a check and balance this misstep we have found ourselves in and build a berm on the slippery slope of overreach into our classrooms by State government [Dr. Samantha Walder, prepared remarks to Board of Education Standards, 2022.11.21].

The ultra-conservative Hillsdale standards are not good for education. Dr. Walder, a conservative herself, says their execution in South Dakota isn’t even conservative.


  1. Mark Anderson 2022-11-21 15:04

    Just ask Hillsdale boy Ian Fury about this. He’s the proper gander for righteousness.

  2. O 2022-11-21 15:07

    The Social Studies standards objections are two-fold: 1) the standards themselves and 2) the process of the adoption of the standards. I hope that both get their fair hearing. Larry P. Arnn, the current president of Hillsdale College, (yes, THAT Hillsdale that Gov. Noem purchased the Social Studies standards from) refers to education as “A Battleground” where he sees his role (and the role of those of his political allies like Gov. Nome and Gov. DeSantis) to hold the line against the liberal attack. The only problem with that reasoning is that there has never been that “liberal attack” in SD standards. That base supposition that began this tempest was a political assumption made when Gov. Noem discarded the work of the original Social Studies workgroup (I’m willing to bet without reading their findings) to jump on the MAGA weaponization of education. I still have not seen anyone point to the standard/s from that initial work that warranted its demise.

    This is the politicizing of public education. This is indoctrination of youth. This is Government schooling. The right chooses to to endorse it because the right is controlling the curriculum. That does not make it right.

    I’m sure teachers, administrators and others in the education profession will speak to the actual standards, but I also hope the discussion of very bad process does not get lost in how this all went down. The history we teach out students is far too important to be left up to the whims political operatives. History ought not be up for a vote.

  3. Mark Anderson 2022-11-21 16:20

    O, I agree with you totally. The Hillsdale idea that children are being indoctrinated is hilarious. Facts are facts. What you teach is important but students now look up everything online and currently that is beyond the control of Noem, DeSantis and the crazies. Students will always look up what they are not supposed to see. This will lead to amazing discussions in class, no doubt. The worst idea of the crazies is the divisive issue. About 15 years ago I was walking on campus at Ringling and heard a student arguing with one of our art historians and saying they didn’t want to hear about war because it made them too upset. Kevin Dean told the student he didn’t edit history for each individual student. That was my first exposure to what is now called divisiveness by right wingers. They want to make them happy with conservative bile. Truth, justice, and the American way so to speak and minimize the hard truths. If South Dakota does teach this way, when those students graduate and go into the real world and see the hard facts they will all become Siddhartha.

  4. M 2022-11-21 17:07

    Dr. Samantha Walder deserves a loud standing ovation!!! Well said and so on the mark.

  5. P. Aitch 2022-11-21 18:31

    Your Governor Noem and her like-minded supporters are convinced that America’s kids don’t think like your Governor Noem and her like-minded supporters because what America’s kids were taught in school is biased toward the left.

    But America’s kids don’t think like your Governor Noem and her like-minded supporters because what your Governor Noem and her like-minded supporters think is not fact based. What your Governor Noem and her like-mined supporters think is skewed toward an “I’m The Victim” mentality.

    In short, America’s kids are smarter than your average MAGA.

  6. grudznick 2022-11-21 19:16

    Ms. P.h is probably right. Most kids are smarter than supporters of Mr. Trump. However schools are very biased toward the left. Many teachers are almost part of the alt-left.

  7. P. Aitch 2022-11-21 19:36

    grudznichts is so far right of center he wouldn’t know left if he was still allowed to drive. #goat

  8. Mark Anderson 2022-11-21 19:39

    Grudz hates unions and teachers. There’s a joke there.

  9. Bob Newland 2022-11-21 20:14

    Grudznutz has no ideology, just as it has no courage. grudznutz lives to provoke reaction. grudznutz has no other reason to exist.

  10. All Mammal 2022-11-21 20:16

    There is no left and right in school. Unless treating others with respect and making decisions by taking a vote after debates and taking turns and picking up after yourself and learning to make friends with diverse groups of people is considered the legendary feared liberal left…what is so scary about making the world a cool, smart, safe, tolerant place?
    Rigid, bland, boring, cold..those things sound painful and dreadful. Makes me wonder if conservative and right wing refer to sadists who like to torture little children.

  11. O 2022-11-21 20:45

    grudznick, have you and your fellow MAGAs in “conservatives with common sense” clothing considered what happens when you continue to demonize education — teachers in particular at every opportunity? As you drive out everyone BUT the “libbies” from education, who do you expect will be left to teach the children? As you continue to make schools an ideological war zone for the hearts and minds of the future AND abdicate the role of teaching, what do you expect the outcome to be? Do you think mandating Nationalist curriculum can do all the heavy lifting for you? You conservatives try like anything to redirect education away from public school as we know it now to private, exclusive, probably religious institutions, but there is no profit after you have “starved that beast” leaving whole segments, the vast majority, unserved by your elitist skimming. You are at your core anti-democratic.

  12. Arlo Blundt 2022-11-21 21:41

    Principal Waldner’s presentation was so much more intelligent, more focused, more rational than anything we have heard from the Hillsdale salesmen, Governor Noem, Legislators, and political hacks. Obviously, we should leave education to the Educators. They were the smart kids in the class, the one’s who took school seriously, and who were adept at learning. They worked hard, and everyone in class knew they had more firepower than the popular, but dim witted, kid who ends up a politician. Leave the Educators to their work, and we will all, children included, end up much better off. The politicians are just the winners in a loser’s popularity contest. In this area, Curriculum and Instruction, they are out of their depth and out of their minds.

  13. Mark Winegar 2022-11-22 04:29

    Hoorah for Dr. Walker!

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-11-22 06:04

    Arlo, Steve Sibson showed up to testify in favor of the Hillsdale standards yesterday. When Sibby supports something, you know it’s bad.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-11-22 06:07

    O reminds us that the whole saga of these standards is radical conservative projection par excellence. Hillsdale and Noem say liberal teachers are indoctrinating students. Teachers are doing no such thing; Hillsdale and Noem want to indoctrinate students with these standards (and by dismantling public schools to drive more children into conservative indoctrinating private schools). Hillsdale and Noem say liberal teachers are politicizing the classroom. Teachers are doing no such thing; Hillsdale and Noem are using these standards as part of their broader political campaign to undermine public education, promote white supremacy, and send Kristi Noem back to Washington.

  16. P. Aitch 2022-11-22 07:19

    Former students who eschew this “white supremacist” manipulation of public education are SD’s “white flight”.

  17. Jake 2022-11-22 11:29

    grudz-kindly give the readers of this blog some (any?) examples of educators instilling the “liberal” ideas into classrooms?

  18. larry kurtz 2022-11-22 12:16

    That South Dakota can divert federal money to preach the end of civil rights in public schools to raise enough revenue to fight the feds in court is simply another way to bleed the beast.

  19. larry kurtz 2022-11-22 12:23

    Earth haters like Mrs. Noem are being coached by religionists to cram the courts and overspend the social justice movement. It’s been the plan since before rhe Carter administration.

  20. Jake 2022-11-22 16:05

    “Crickets” from grudz re: any examples of teacher ‘bias’ (liberal) to SD students. Bleat! Goat got!

  21. P. Aitch 2022-11-22 18:57

    @ Jake – Since Cory changed the format of his blog (We no longer can sign up for email notification when someone else has posted on a topic that we’ve also posted on.) grudznichts doesn’t read what anyone else says. Stereotype labeling would assume he only cares about himself and has no desire to learn anything new. As Cory pointed out, earlier today, grudznachts is just an actor, working daily to get a negative response from someone, anyone. Responding to him is hard to avoid, though. He’s “low hanging fruit”. The old guy is reliving his youth as a Catholic schoolboy; so bored with his life that social disruption is his only entertainment. Once a man, twice a child.

  22. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-11-22 19:11

    Let’s encourage Grudz to continue posting here. The repartee is worth it even though he’s the biggest boil on our collective butts; Cory knows an oppurtunity when he reads one.

  23. P. Aitch 2022-11-22 19:30

    Agreed, Ms. Fairbanks.

  24. DaveFN 2022-11-22 21:17

    P. Aitch

    “The old guy is reliving his youth as a Catholic schoolboy; so bored with his life that social disruption is his only entertainment. Once a man, twice a child.”

    And that’s encouragement in your book?

  25. P. Aitch 2022-11-22 21:44

    DaveFn – drop over … a cliff #grins I remember you now.

  26. grudznick 2022-11-22 23:29

    grudznick has so infected all of your minds and your groupthink that you have hijacked Mr. H’s blogging about those Hillsdale fellows and turned it into a rant about me. Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s probably a good thing, because it distracts from the real issue…, I’m just sayin…

    You poor bossturds. You can’t see the potatoes through the gravy.


  27. P. Aitch 2022-11-23 04:02

    Happy Thanksgiving, God bless us, everyone!

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