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Education Secretary Graves Distances, Deflects from Bad Curriculum Standards Process

Even loyal Republican flakster and newly anointed Education Secretary Joe Graves can’t defend the extraordinarily politicized, teacher-disdaining process that produced the radical draft K-12 social studies curriculum standards from Hillsdale College that his office is pushing. Asked about opposition to that process, Secretary Graves distanced himself from the process, seemed to concede the process had problems, but urged us to overlook those problems for now:

While not everyone approves of the process, Graves says they do address an issue which is a lack of “civics mastery.”

“We’ve got to get back to that. To me, however, the process occurred, of course, I wasn’t here for that, so I really wasn’t tuned into that as much as many people were. The outcome is much more important than the process. And if we need to fix a process later, then we’ll need to fix that process later,” Graves said [Carter Schmidt, “SD Education Secretary Discusses Proposed Social Studies Standards Revisions,” KELO-TV, 2023.01.19].

Sorry, Joe: we can’t ignore the process. The process helps explain why the standards the state is now paying you $174,100 to push are so bad. Standards usually come from a big committee of teachers who volunteer to draw on their training, experience, and expertise to write. That’s how the process started with the social studies standards, as a team of 40-some practicing social studies teachers spent a few months in 2021 reviewing the existing standards and improving them, only to see Governor Kristi Noem seize on their document as a political piñata, throw out their professional work, and convene a hand-picked team of mostly non-teachers to rubberstamp a document written by a conservative college professor from Michigan. The predictable result was a sloppy, impractical, possibly illegal, and harmful set of standards inferior to the work of South Dakota’s own well-informed teachers, who have widely panned the document.

We can take heart in Secretary Graves’s concession that Governor Noem broke the standards process and that his office needs to fix it. He’s halfway there! But that broken process has produced broken standards that must also be fixed before they are imposed on South Dakota’s teachers and students.


  1. 96Tears 2023-01-20 14:35

    Translation of Graves’ response to the utterly ridiculous proposed Hillsdale rightwing propaganda: “Get this political crap outta here. My job is to make sure the hog trough stays full of cash for my political pals. I thought the Governor knew that!”

  2. Donald Pay 2023-01-20 15:14

    A lot of what Graves said above is gobbledygook, but the part about process is just horrible for someone who is supposedly trying to get civics into the curriculum standards. This is what Graves said:

    “The outcome is much more important than the process. And if we need to fix a process later, then we’ll need to fix that process later.”

    What? What? His “ends justify the means” approach is what is wrong with government. As long as Graves gets what Graves wants, he doesn’t have to follow the law or worry about anything anyone else has to say on the subject. That’s what he’s saying. That’s dictatorship, not a democratic republic. Process is everything.

    I’ve always been a process is more important than the results kind of person. As long as I can have a say, and others can have their say, and we come up with a good decision, even if I don’t get exactly everything I want, that’s what government is supposed to do—that’s CIVICS.

  3. All Mammal 2023-01-20 15:45

    I agree with Mr. Pay here. I have earned whole credits in Early Childhood Development (not my own ECD) where the entire premise ended up being: It is the process, not the product, that rules.
    Who cares at the end of a birth to three art project whether or not all the penguins look the same. They definitely shouldn’t. Its the interaction with the medium and inner decisions about preference, like, “Oh, I sure like how that poofy foam turns out”, or, “Ok, I need to get this cotton out of my mouth. Don’t put that there anymore”, that leads to an outcome a bad mammajamma can feel confident about. Same goes with the process of putting ANY product out there… Including education standards. Don’t schlap something together and say, “Here, Tina, you fat lard. Come get some dinner. Gosh!” Nothing worth a heap will come out of it that way.

  4. All Mammal 2023-01-20 15:49

    96 makes a good point too.
    This whole fiasco of getting these bunk standards passed is only going to shy the upper echelon away from transparency and lead them to choke public comments out altogether. I hope not. I still plan on participating in RC in February.

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