The Board of Education Standards held its second hearing on the radical Hillsdale College social studies standards that Governor Kristi Noem wants to impose on South Dakota students and teachers. Once again, opponents outnumbered proponents both on the registered speaker roster and in the audience. Once again, proponent testimony came mostly from Noem flunkies, Republican politicians, and out-of-state interests, plus conservative cranks like Penny Baybridge and Steve Sibson, while opposition came mostly from South Dakota educators and parents who will have to help kids through these impractical, costly, harmful standards and Indian leaders who recognize the unseemly white supremacy baked into these standards by Hillsdale College at Donald Trump’s behest.
The board yesterday announced that the last two hearings on the Hillsdale standards will take place Saturday, February 11, in Pierre and Monday, April 17, in Rapid City. The Board won’t vote to approve or reject the Hillsdale standards until after that fourth hearing.
But I have to wonder: given Governor Noem’s reëlection by 62% to 35% to 3%, will two more rounds of vocal, homegrown, well-reasoned opposition stop the board from rubber-stamping the Governor’s bad standards? I hate to be a pessimist, but we’ve seen the Governor hijack the normal standards-writing procedure, dismiss the work of South Dakota educators in favor of out-of-state ideologues, and turn out social studies curriculum into a political prop in Hillsdale’s war against public schools and her own national campaign and suffer no consequences at the polls. Voters ignored teachers as much as Noem has and rewarded Noem with another four years of unchecked power by a larger margin than they elected her in 2018. Noem is stacking the Board of Education Standards in her favor, and she’ll get to throw another conservative flunky on the board this winter when Aberdeen superintendent Dr. Becky Guffin’s term ends. Noem has not just political capital but electoral carte blanche to demand whatever she wants from this board and pretty much every other state entity and get it.
Honest, conscientious educators, parents, and other South Dakotans need to continue to lay out the multi-pronged case on the Hillsdale standards. We must document and resist what harm Governor Noem is doing to public education. But the South Dakota electorate’s warm embrace of Governor Noem’s malfeasance indicates that resistance will not stop the adoption of these standards and the white-washing of South Dakota K-12 social studies education.