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HB 1070: Odenbach Wants Hillsdaley “Center for American Exceptionalism” at BHSU Right Now!

Governor Kristi Noem has offered to build divisively conservative Hillsdale College of Michigan an entire campus in South Dakota. Some Republican legislators think it would be simpler to turn Black Hills State into a Hillsdale branch.

Representative Scott Odenbach (R-31/Spearfish) proposes House Bill 1070 to establish a “Center for American Exceptionalism” on his hometown state university campus. HB 1070 tasks this new center with five major projects to “make the state’s public universities contributing, meaningful, and relevant partners in civics and social studies education”:

  1. Working to develop, distribute, and annually update a K-12 curriculum available to all public schools in American history and exceptionalism, explaining why America rose to greatness and how to keep it that way, and teaching students to balance critical thinking with love of country. The curriculum shall include a South Dakota history and American Indian tribes component focusing on the proud history of the indigenous peoples of South Dakota;
  2. Providing multi-media content speaking directly to state social studies standards; and
  3. Working with K-12 teachers, including providing professional development workshops, to help students:
    1. Understand American history, government institutions, constitutional rights, and cultural contexts in South Dakota and beyond;
    2. Develop personal agency and confidence to participate in the civic life of the state and nation through voting, volunteerism, informed discourse, and lifelong involvement; and
    3. Appreciate civil discourse, free speech, and engagement with people of all perspectives;
  4. Oversee the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Program, as developed by the Center for Civic Education, and its promotion and implementation throughout public schools; and
  5. Develop, implement, and annually update a curriculum available to be taught in two courses at the state’s public colleges and universities:
    1. A course comparing communist/socialist countries to Western-style democratic countries throughout history; and
    2. A course comparing command-style socialist economies to free-market capitalist economies throughout history [2023 House Bill 1070, excerpt from Section 1, filed 2023.01.13].

Tasks 1 and 2, cranking out content related to the harmful and radical Hillsdale-politicized K-12 social studies standards that Governor Noem intends to shove down kids’ throats, may serve to launder the materials that Hillsdale produces and wants to force into every classroom in America.

Task 3 strikes the flint near the tinderbox. Teachers used to get to work on the K-12 social studies standards, but Governor Noem has shut them out of that process because they’re all too leftist and liberal and hate America. Does Rep. Odenbach really intend his Center for American Exceptionalism to work with teachers or just work on them to ingrain his preferred propaganda into them?

Task 4 appears to connect this project with some actual good content, the We the People program that has a long tradition of success at Spearfish High School. But the national Center for Civic Education already has a state coordinator for We the People, Wes Brown at the Vantage Institute. Does HB 1070 intend to place this successful private program under state control and wreck it?

Task 5 is the only part of HB 1070 directing Black Hills State University to exert itself on educating state university students with the creation of two courses to compare communist economics and politics with democratic and free-market systems. The text of HB 1070 is value-neutral—it doesn’t direct the courses to say that democracy and free markets produce and protect sliced bread. But the inclusion of the term “American exceptionalism” in the center’s name indicates the conclusion Representative Odenbach and his Republican co-sponsors—Reps. Fred Deutsch, Randy Gross, Carl Perry, and Tony Venhuizen and Senator Ryan Maher—want professed and learned: America is the best!

The most problematic phrase in this bill is tucked into Section 1 subpoint 1’s dictation of part of the purpose of the K-12 curriculum the center would spin: “teaching students to balance critical thinking with love of country.” Representative Odenbach’s language suggests that critical thinking and love of country stand in opposition to each other and require balancing. Does he really intend to create a curriculum that says to students, “It’s all good and fine to think critically about politics and economics and history and human rights, but sometimes you have to shut off your brain and just belt out Lee Greenwood with all your heart”?

America is a democracy, a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our democracy is predicated on the Jeffersonian idea that we can educate the people and trust them to exercise their critical thinking to produce better outcomes than any kings pretending to exercise divine right over our fates. That exceptional idea is the rational core of American exceptionalism. Thinking critically should lead us to love this exceptional country. To portray critical thinking and love of country as opposing forces misses the whole point of what HB 1070’s Center for American Exceptionalism is supposed to promote.

Whatever Representative Odenbach is trying to do with HB 1070, he wants it done now. HB 1070 includes an emergency clause, declaring that the Center for American Exceptionalism is so “necessary for the support of the state government and its existing public institutions” that an emergency exists and that the state should spend $150,000 to open this center immediately.

An emergency? Hmm… teachers and professors have been creating social studies curriculum for generations with a center at BHSU telling them how to do it. HB 1070 hardly seems necessary to support existing public institutions. With the center’s “nonprofit board of directors”, appointed by BHSU’s president, authorized to “seek all available sources of funding,” HB 1070 just seems a convenient way to open the door for Hillsdale College to divert some of its cash to South Dakota along with its right-wing whitewashing agenda.


  1. larry kurtz 2023-01-14

    Spearditch has become such a scary place.

  2. Vi Kingman 2023-01-14

    That my friend is indoctrination

  3. Richard Schriever 2023-01-14

    Traditionally, “American Exceptionalism” has referred to the US doing/being something that was an exception to the rule, an odd-ball weirdo country vs. the rest of the world. It did not mean to say is/was a “better” country such as the modern colloquialized meaning has come to be. Maybe that should be the FIRST thing taught about “American Exsceptionlism”. It also pointed to way in which the US was “exceptional”, and that had solely to do with the idea that no ONE PERSON, or “family” or “class” of people were inherently “gifted” by God to dictate to the rest of humanity what and how to do life. And, while that may have been true when the phrase was first coined by a FRENCH TOURIST, that is not the case now. It has and had ZERO to do with systems of economics.

    All this stuff is to be understood in terms of “newspeak”, a term found in a book WRITTEN BY A FREE-THINKING AMERICAN that I’m fairly sure the likes of the sponsors of this bill would ban.

  4. Richard Schriever 2023-01-14

    Oops. Ding me a grade-point for Orwell being English.

  5. Donald Pay 2023-01-14

    Pretty soon you will have something called “Americanism with South Dakota Characteristics.” Maybe you can get Xi Jinping to teach “Advanced Theory on Indoctrination.” I mean, seriously. These folks hate China so much because they are afraid China is catching up to Republicans in brainwashing.

  6. larry kurtz 2023-01-14

    BHSU used to boast the highest American Indian enrollment among the regental institutions in the perpetual welfare state.

    South Dakota Republicans have obviously forgotten that the ground they live on was seized from aboriginal cultures by liberal democrat, President Thomas Jefferson through an executive order that even he believed was unconstitutional.

  7. sx123 2023-01-14

    Only $150k? That’s only enough to convert an existing janitor closet. This bill seems weird and unnecessary to me.

  8. grudznick 2023-01-14

    They only want to have the debates, Mr. Sx123. They don’t need the money. It is about getting attention and yelling “Merica!” at libbie out of state college kids.

  9. DaveFN 2023-01-14

    What is this? Another typically delayed SD response to the philosophy of Antonio Gramsci and the hegemony discursive theory of Laclau-Mouffe, to Michel Foucault if not the existentialism of Sartre? To some boogey-man of a perceived imaginary threat hiding under the rubric of French intellectualism 40-50 years ago, a boogey-man which continues to haunt the SD prairie-minded unequipped to engage with critical theory any other way but by typical knee-jerk response? Of course, I give them too much credit as they know nothing of critical theory, which is part and parcel of their problem–their little learning is a dangerous thing and itself poses the biggest threat to them so is their—and our—own worst enemy.

    If SD higher education is so impoverished that this “Center” is the fix, any legislator or governor who would propose it does nothing but indict the quality of the SD higher educational system, if not SD itself.

    Indoctrination is right, Vi, for this doesn’t accede to the level of education, however much it attempts to harness the machinery thereof, although as sx123 indicates, the funding amount is nothing but a political token. In other words, we have legislators who can’t put their money where their mouth is.

  10. SD Rough Rider 2023-01-14

    Has anyone studied Karl Marx?

    Sounds a lot like something that that he would promote. “I know better than you how to create better citizens”.

    My 2 Cents,

    SD Rough Rider

  11. Mark Anderson 2023-01-14

    Sure Grudz, the exceptional Scott wants a debate. The last thing they want is a debate. It would rain on their exceptionalism very quickly. I love my country too much to allow quacks and their proper ganders to have their history of America be taught in the real America, even rural.
    Imagine a French “Center for French Exceptionalism”, the French are too shrewd to allow that even as they believe it.
    Hillsdale is a mediocre school. DeSantis is pushing them. Where did DeSantis go to school, Yale 2001, Harvard Law 2005. He’s a shrewd little shortstop too. Noem dropped out of SDSU, she should run on that against the girly voiced little Governor. Right Ian, your a Hillsdale boy, you know mediocrity wins in Republican elections.

  12. Jake 2023-01-15

    The whole thing from the “get-go” of Noem’s re-do of history smells like a week old kettle of fish in July in SD. I honestly feel so sad for our youth in SD: first, their teachers thru 12th grade (brave soulds they are) are constantly underpaid and under valued, and should they want to attend higher levels of education (12-16yrs) in state-they have to injest some mickey-mouse GOP B.S. programs led/developed by Hillsdale College? Can anyone blame theme for leaving in droves to educate elsewhere?

  13. Dougy 2023-01-15

    Odenbach is a crazy freedom caucus member. He is a tiny man with a huge ego.

  14. Eve Fisher 2023-01-15

    The GOP has taken “American Exceptionalism” to mean that ANY criticism of ANY action done by Americans is unpatriotic. And let all those who are descendants of slaves, all who survived the various indigenous genocides, all who are still fighting for equal civil rights before the law, just keep their mouths shut, ’cause you’re lucky to have what you have (which is whatever the GOP in its current incarnation says you should have). Because ‘Merica is the best, and always will be, and everyone else in the world “hates us for our freedoms.” The answer to each of these sentences is No, No, and No, they don’t.

  15. Scott Odenbach 2023-01-15

    FDR and JFK would disagree with most of the wacky comments above. They were proud of America and led U.S. through some dark times where love of country was critical. Today’s Dem’s should consider that, pause and reflect. There is a big difference between being “liberal” in the classic sense vs. a leftist totalitarian demanding fealty to the party line. Such budding tyranny is seen in America today in cancel culture, and the demand that all accept – and even applaud – the redefinition of even the most basic truths such as biological sex. It has cost millions of lives in the 20th century and beyond. That is, in part, what any good history course should teach.

  16. Mark Anderson 2023-01-15

    I wonder if they teach Russell Banks at Hillsdale? In a critical context of course.

  17. O 2023-01-15

    Another great idea from the people who love democracy — but hate letting the majority have their way. Sometimes the exceptional, or the chosen by god, or the billionaires just know better . . . What use are silly historical facts when one has ideology to truly see the world? Right-wing governance is getting closer and closer to a Maoist cultural revolution each day, complete with state re-education camps.

  18. All Mammal 2023-01-15

    The ‘ideas’ of our git governor are bad enough without her little stool pigeons taking up the activity.

  19. P. Aitch 2023-01-15

    “It is not teaching about racism that endangers our students, but the curricular gag-rules that seek to perpetuate their miseducation.“
    “Our classrooms are not sites of demoralized children who hate themselves and their country. Students are hungry for explanations — real explanations — for the world they have inherited.“
    –’s aggregated factuality score is high. Factuality is assigned by combining fact check, credibility, and reliability ratings from Ad Fontes Media and Media Bias/Fact Check.

  20. e platypus onion 2023-01-15

    Argus Leader blasts Duhkota’s teacher shortage and lays the blame(s) where they belong..,.,.,on politics, low pay and lack of respect for teachers, you know…on magats in control.

  21. Arlo Blundt 2023-01-15

    This bill smells so rank it would take a battalion of shovel wielders to bury it deep enough in impermeable Pierre shale not to cause retching across the state. The South Dakota Rough Rider is right on point, as Legislator Oldenbach’s modest proposal sounds like a poor interpretation of Marx and a literal interpretation of Mao’s “Reeducation Camps”. The world f the Gulag is not so far away.

  22. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-01-15

    SX123, that $150K simply opens the door for raising a whole bunch of dark money from private donors who will be more than happy to foot the bill for destroying public education with their desired indoctrination.

  23. Kyle Krause 2023-01-16

    The same people who claim to be conservative want to destroy local control over education.

    The same people who decry authoritarian China want to adopt the same top-down nationalist indoctrination strategy China uses.

    Come on Scott…

  24. Kurt Evans 2023-01-16

    Scott Odenbach writes:

    [Totalitarian tyranny] has cost millions of lives in the 20th century and beyond. That is, in part, what any good history course should teach.

    Kyle Krause writes:

    The same people who decry authoritarian China want to adopt the same top-down nationalist indoctrination strategy China uses.

    Teaching historical facts isn’t the same strategy as concealing them, and concealing them has already become the prevailing top-down strategy in the United States.

    That’s also true of scientific facts:

  25. larry kurtz 2023-01-16

    Actually, zircon dating is a preferred method for the determining the age of the planet but the origin of life is less a mystery than it was.

    Last, our results reveal that the earliest biologically functional peptides were likely available before the assembly of fully functional protein domains over 3.8 billion years ago. Thus, life is a special, very complex form of motion of matter, but this form did not always exist, and it is not separated from inorganic nature by an impassable abyss; rather, it arose from inorganic nature as a new property in the process of evolution of the world. We must study the history of this evolution if we want to solve the problem of the origin of life.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-01-17

    Funny that Rep. Odenbach warns of totalitarians demanding fealty to a party line. He’s holding a mirror up to his HB 1070 and his party.

    The liberal left loves America. I love America. I want kids to understand America in full, the understand our successes and our failures, and to critically think about how to apply the lessons of our successes to rectifying our failures.

  27. Curtis Price 2023-01-17

    Wish I could rec comments to applaud Cory for the mention of the fabulous Pierre Shale, the most extensive bedrock geologic unit in South Dakota!

  28. jakc 2023-01-17

    forget BH. looks like there will be space available in Aberdeen.

    Also Mark Anderson, “With Che at BHSC” was the original title of “With Che in New Hampshire”

  29. grudznick 2023-01-17

    That’s right, Mr. “jakc”. After Mr. H abandoned them, the Presentation Sisters tanked their last stand. Out of spite.

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