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Eight Constructive Responses to the Newly Approved Hillsdale Social Studies Standards

In another great middle finger to South Dakota teachers and other education experts, Governor Kristi Noem’s Republican cronies on the state Board of Education Standards yesterday approved the Hillsdale College K-12 social studies standards. How might South Dakotans flip that bird back at the Governor and save South Dakota’s students from the worst social studies standards ever?

  1. Teachers should go on strike and demand the Board of Education Standards rescind its vote and replace the Hillsdale standards with the July 2021 draft standards that were written by actual South Dakota educators. Sure, a strike is illegal, but with the state so short of teachers that the board is letting schools fill empty positions with student teachers, schools can’t afford to fire all the strikers. 

    …speaking of illegal…

  2. School boards should sue the state to block the implementation of the standards due to the state’s failure to follow the law. SDCL 13-3-89 requires four public hearings on any new curriculum standards over a period of at least six months in four different cities. The draft of the standards approved yesterday were published March 30. Those standards received one public hearing. The March 30 draft differed enough from the January 2023 and August 2022 versions to turn retired Pierre social studies teacher and original standards workgroup member Judy Rapp from an opponent to a proponent, so they must substantively differ from the standards that received public hearings in Rapid City last February, Sioux Falls last November, and Aberdeen last September. The standards approved yesterday, after one public hearing in Pierre, are thus illegal.
  3. Schools should refuse to implement the new standards. Replacing textbooks to meet the new radical standards will cost over $3 million in the Sioux Falls school district alone. Schools should avoid this cost by adopting the July 2021 standards, which align far better with existing materials and effective pedagogy. If anyone complains, tell them schools are simply exercising local control.
  4. The Sioux Falls school board should demand that the state transfer all funds from the stealth voucher program to pay for new social studies textbooks.
  5. Social studies teachers should immediately implement the Hillsdale standards on tyranny (4.SS.9.E, 7.SS.8.E, 9-12.USH.9.F, 9-12.C.5.E, 9-12.C.5.K, 9-12.C.11.F…) and have students study the imposition of these standards over overwhelming public opposition as a case study.
  6. As a culminatory exercise to that new unit on tyranny, teachers should take students on field trips to Pierre during the last week of school (which, with all those snow days to make up, is pushed back to July, right?) to visit government offices. As an additional action civics/art activity, students should pile surplus social studies books up against the expensive fence around the Governor’s mansion to symbolize the need to build a bulwark against tyrants with education.
  7. Teachers, administrators, school board members, parents, and students should lobby the Legislature to repeal the laws allowing the state to impose curriculum standards on K-12 schools. Again, local control!
  8. Every teacher who publicly opposed the standards should run for Legislature and drive the 2024 election conversation toward discussion of education and local control.

I welcome your further suggestions for constructive responses to save our students from the political stunt that has become the worst social studies standards ever.


  1. Richard Schriever 2023-04-18

    Compliance and conformity with lower standards is the SD way though. Doing so assures that grievance against governance can continue to drive anti-woke US sentiments alive and “social conservative” values in play as political standards. This is a way to recruit (own) libs (buy them in) to the “conservative” camp of the aggrieved government haters.

  2. P. Aitch 2023-04-18

    Here are a few ways that elementary school teachers can react positively to unrealistic social studies curriculum standards:

    1. Communicate with administrators: Teachers can communicate with their school administrators about their concerns with the unrealistic curriculum standards. Perhaps there is room for negotiation or re-evaluation of the standards on a school by school basis.

    2. Prioritize key concepts: Teachers can prioritize the most important concepts and skills that students need to learn within the curriculum standards. This will help them focus on what is most important.

    3. Use creative teaching methods: Teachers can use creative teaching methods to help students understand difficult concepts. For example, they can use games, simulations, and role-playing activities to make social studies more engaging and fun.

    4. Use real-life examples: Teachers can help students make connections with real-life examples, which will make the curriculum standards more relevant for students.

    5. Collaborate with other teachers: Teachers can collaborate with their fellow educators to share ideas, strategies, and resources for teaching social studies. This will help them navigate the challenging curriculum standards.

  3. P. Aitch 2023-04-18

    Words Matter Example:
    From USA’s most respected newspaper The New York Times comes this description of Hillsdale College. I believe it’s valid in its departmentalization of the institution.
    “Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed to report $686,589 in income that his wife earned over five years from the Heritage Foundation as well as two years of her income from Hillsdale College, a Christian school in Michigan.” – NYTimes 18.4.2023

  4. bearcreekbat 2023-04-18

    What sort or enforcement mechanism or sanctions are in place to deal with teachers that simply ignore the standards and teach in a manner they have learned that actually benefits their students? If the inability to eliminate teachers is real due to an actual severe teacher shortage then are these standards, in effect, merely recommended or advisory rather than mandatory?

  5. Ryan 2023-04-18

    I wonder if the parents of a child attending a south dakota public school would have standing to file suit as described in Cory’s Constructive Response #2.

  6. All Mammal 2023-04-18

    The president of Hillsdale wants teachers with any stones to go on strike because he has replacements in the works. He was caught saying something like, “We could train monkeys to teach this” in TN.

    I would support a strike. And thanks to my rigorous recent study of heroes like Gandhi and Parks demonstrating civil disobedience and conscientious objection, along with an obligation under special circumstances to engage in uncivil disobedience. The latter we still have yet to justify. I also support a department of education shift to start militia training. Our kids and water are alls we’ve got and they are THREATENED RIGHT NOW. As with the categorical exclusion granted a gold mining company in the Black Hills from producing any normally required Environmental Impact Study before boring through our water shed, there will need to be nighttime ninja militia tactics carried out to protect our health and well-being from the oppression of a governor and her axis of evil allies. Rest assured, all civil and legal, indeed. All well within our constitutional rights, and the forefathers’ explicit example.

    “Usually, when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when people get angry, they bring about a change.” Malcolm X

  7. Mark Anderson 2023-04-18

    Come on All Mammal, monkey’s have wider range of thought than a Hillsdale graduate.

  8. larry kurtz 2023-04-18

    There was a time when I felt sorry for non-tribal Democrats who lives in South Dakota but now I believe you’re all just stupid.

  9. CK 2023-04-18

    Can a teacher be a legislator in SD and still teach?

  10. Peter Kilian 2023-04-18

    A few motivated K-12 teachers and administrators will develop ways to teach around these so-called standards. Most won’t.

  11. Bob Newland 2023-04-18

    I am, predictably, rather disturbed by Gubner Noem’s tone-deafness. There is little left to say.

  12. Jeff Nelsen 2023-04-19

    To CK, yes a teacher can take an approved sabatical / leave of absence with their administration’s approval, to serve in the legislature.
    We have an appointed board, SD State Board of Education, dictating standards to all SD ELECTED boards of education. I believe a resounding NO needs to be the response. I agree with the comments about legislation addressing the obvious politization of the state board of ed. In addition to the four meeting requirement, the makeup of all work groups should be specified in statute to include SD educators and curriculum specialists from the field under review. Inclusion of any out of state person would only be in an advisory capacity, non-voting.
    The State Board of Education should be bi-partisan, with no majority given to any party, 3 R, 3 D and 1 independent. No person would be eligible to serve on the state board of ed for five years following any legislative or executive branch service. I don’t know how else the one party rule in Pierre can be squashed, but I can be an idealist.
    A lawsuit, possibly, it would have more merit than Noem’s 4th of July fireworks lawsuits.
    ‘nough said, the hiring for professionals will suffer and the rental trucks leaving the state will be boom to uhaul!

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-04-19

    Ryan, any member of the public should have standing to file a lawsuit over the state’s failure to conduct sufficient public hearings of the standards.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-04-19

    CK, yes, a teacher can serve in the Legislature and continue to work for a K-12 district. Mel Olson from Mitchell did so.

    Related: Reynold Nesiba continues to teach economics at Augustana while serving as District 15 Senator.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-04-19

    BCB, school boards can fire any teacher at any time for any reason.

    But I notice, BCB, that the “state accountability system” only considers whether students are making progress in academic achievement under the reading and math standards. The social studies standards are not measured and thus may not be enforced by the state.

  16. M 2023-04-19

    A strike wouldn’t work in this area because the teachers can’t afford to take time off without pay and the Fox watching public claim teachers are overpaid so they would not side with them.

    Clearly most teachers who are on the front lines are female and always take the heat so the blowback needs to come from the predominantly male administrators. Once again in this area there is animosity towards the overpaid and underworked teacher.

    Make all the suggestions you want, they won’t work. Welcome to the Monkey House.

  17. Jenny 2023-04-19

    Why would a strike be illegal in SD, Cory? Because SD is a Right to Work State?

    You get what you vote for South Dakota.

  18. M 2023-04-19

    Actually, the parents, school boards and admin need to fight this battle. Teachers can be released from their contracts at any time and without reason in S.D. because there is nothing to protect them. Many don’t even belong to SDEA or NEA because of the fees.

  19. Nick Nemec 2023-04-19

    Jenny teacher strikes are illegal in South Dakota because South Dakota state law specifically prohibits teacher strikes. I haven’t done the research to find the specific statute nor do I know if the no strikes law also applies to other public sector employees.
    It isn’t specifically because of the “right to work” law but rather is a separate law that springs from the same anti-union/anti-worker mindset.

  20. O 2023-04-19

    Cory writes: “BCB, school boards can fire any teacher at any time for any reason.”

    I would not say that is totally correct. When a fourth contract with a district is signed, a SD teachers does earn “continuing contract rights” that require a district to show cause for dismissal of a teacher. That usually requires a process of evaluation and assistance to meet any recognized issues with a teacher’s performance in a reasonable amount of time. After that, teachers are dismissed for cause. “Any time for any reason” applies to the first three years of teaching, when districts can dismiss teachers “without cause.” No reason needs to be given.

  21. O 2023-04-19

    I believe the teacher strike law was amended years back to allow teachers to TALK about strikes. Before that, even speaking of a strike was a crime enforceable by fines and jail time. See how far they have come? (snark)

  22. Nix 2023-04-19

    If you don’t know by now, we are on track
    to be “The Mississippi of the North”.
    I’ve been to Mississippi.
    I’m not going back anytime soon.
    Fascism begins with a drip, drip, drip.
    Anyone care to guess what the next GOP
    Boogeyman will be?
    Oh, they’re just getting started folks.
    Stay tuned…..

  23. M 2023-04-19

    O you are wrong on both counts. As I said earlier, teachers can be riffed (reduction in force) or let go anytime for any reason. If you want examples, I’ll tell you a few. Teachers can not strike nor can they write letters to the editor criticizing the powers that be. Their hands are tied and that’s why I don’t think they should fight this battle.

  24. O 2023-04-19

    M, RIF language and process would be determined by individual district policy and contract. In districts I have dealt with, RIF triggers only when there is an ACTUAL reduction in the need for teachers (such as declining enrollment or phasing out of programming). Who is let go under those conditions absolutely varies by district.

    I would also say that teachers do not relinquish all their First Amendment rights to free speech by nature of their employment. I’m not sure how you define “powers that be,” but strong voices lobbying legislators for example has been a cornerstone of the improvements we have seen in funding.

    I concede there is risk; depending on how political an individual district is, retaliation is a threat (of not only teaching but any job). However, as the front line on issues of proper coursework for students, teachers MUST make their voices heard. Around here, nobody else has the expertise to take up these fights.

  25. bearcreekbat 2023-04-19

    Jenny raises an interesting question asking whether South Dakota’s “right to work” protects a teacher from being fired for going on strike.

    On the surface it appears no, for the reasons described by Nick, namely: “because South Dakota state law specifically prohibits teacher strikes.” SDCL 3-18-10 is the statute prohibiting teacher strikes.

    But every State statute is subordinate to the federal and State Constitutions. So if SDCL 3-18-10 conflicts with either the State or federal Constitution, then that statute’s terms are not enforceable, (as Cory has successfully established in more than one case involving different unconstitutional statutes). The federal 1st Amendment guarantees a “right of association,” which would seem to protect the right to join a union. So apparently South Dakota would not be able to enact a statute that, in effect, prohibits someone from joining, i.e. associating with, a teacher’s union or remaining a member of that union by imposing a punishment for compliance with the union membership requirements.

    South Dakota’s “right to work” law is not statutory, rather, it is part of the South Dakota Constitution. Thus if a conflict exists, the constitutional> provision prevails over the statutory provision. The Constitution’s “right to work” law reads:

    § 2. Due process–Right to work. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. The right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union, or labor organization.

    So if a teachers’ union went on strike, which provision controls – SDCL 3-18-10 or § 2 of the Constitution? If the SD legislature can prohibit compliance with a union’s membership requirements by merely enacting a statute that, in effect, prohibits membership in the union by threatening an individual’s “right to work” if that person complies with a union membership requirement to strike it seems there is at least a non-frivoulous argument that such statutory provision would be inconsistent with the SD Constitution and therefore invalid. Jenny’s question seems well worth exploring further by our local teachers’ union legal counsel.

  26. bearcreekbat 2023-04-19

    Also, the above § 2 “right to work” Constitutional language would seem to negate the power to fire a teacher for “any reason,” even if only a new hire with less than 3 years on the job, since the teacher cannot be fired for the reason he or she belongs to a teachers’ union.

  27. All Mammal 2023-04-19

    Like the good, militant, and seen on PBS’s ‘Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World’ creator, Chuck D from the duo Public Enemy instructs: FIGHT THE POWER!

    Look at where we are at…All because we have let shtuff slide here and there before. We cannot continue to let it slide. That is how we become punks. Maybe the courts and the letters work for some things. But sometimes we have to organize and do it together instead of expecting some big daddy with deep pockets to get his lawyers to do it for us again. We can show the other downtrodden and disenfranchised how SD gets down for our teachers and learners. M is right, educators need to feel relief knowing we got them. They fight alone in silence while trying to raise their own families until now. We’ve got to fight the power. Down with Hillsdale. Down with racism. Down with miseducation. Down with KN. I suggest making some racket and get Jordan Klepper’s attention like Jenny posted on earlier because clowning our ridiculous state’s absurdity gets the vain clown’s attention. Get militant and get national. I suggest that when teachers are abused, trains stop in their tracks…..

  28. All Mammal 2023-04-19

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to come off as flippant in regards to the efforts of the good samaritans who have fought the power through the courts and initiated measures for the benefits of us all. I am thankful to all the individuals and groups with the compunction and finances to say damn the man loudly and legally.

  29. V 2023-04-19

    I taught for 21 years in one district west river where we were told NOT to discuss school issues outside of the building. I saw a teacher lose his job after 8years for showing “Dances with Wolves” without parental permission. I witnessd countless turnovers because of teachers’ failure to “follow the program and work as a team.” The school started hiring Teachers for America on 2 year contracts when we only had one year contracts and they hired MANY of them. I could go on and on but the worst case was when I was told by a new middle school principal that I would be nonrenewed after 18 years if I didn’t start working with her agenda. I transferred to the elementary to get away from her for the following year when she was fired half way through the year for a fraudulent certificate. 3 years in elementary, and I retired early after we got a new principal each year, the last one fired for embezzling funds.

    This is South Dakota.

  30. M 2023-04-20

    O, teachers in S.D. have no power. Our school had low test grades for 6 – 12 when the state board of education offered the superintendent a grant to find “higher” qualified teachers. The grant stipulated that all middle school and high school teachers would be released of contract and only 50% would be rehired as first year and be paid accordingly.

    In a rural area, that’s a bad thing to even suggest when most staff commute 30 miles or further to teach here. Two school board members wives were high school teachers so that didn’t fly and the superintendent failed to return the next year. However many teachers lost sleep over the mere mention of losing pay to that extreme if they were the lucky ones to be rehired.

    Did you ever have a job like that O?

  31. O 2023-04-20

    M, of course all would condemn the actions proposed by the BOE in your example. I would point out that it did not happen. Any continuing contract teachers would have grounds to sue (in my humble non-legal opinion). Sometimes the threats of the stupid are SO stupid that they do not come to fruition. I agree that even those threats cause heartache for those involved, but sometimes the action that NEEDS to be taken is for teachers to leave situations that mistreat them. Teachers, because of the growing shortage, are the hot commodity. Teachers need to make their political/idealogical will felt; the most effective way to do that is the selection of who they choose to sell their talents to. Short of that, teachers must get FAR more involved in school board elections. Given that the school is usually one of the largest employers in a town, and the influence that teachers COULD have in such elections, that teachers go so mistreated needs to be addressed in their political involvement locally. I hope your district would have teachers address the school board with a dozen FAR better alternatives to help students in your district succeed. Teachers must stop letting EVERYONE ELSE be the expert on their students and their success.

    Teachers are not assigned school districts. Teachers choose where to apply for jobs. Yes, this is an oversimplification, but how has staying put and wallowing in misery on the edge of a knife been treating them?

  32. John 2023-04-20

    #9. “It’s really important to acknowledge the pain of the past. And to be honest about it. And it is painful. And you don’t want to make children feel guilty for their ancestors did. . . . It’s hard to talk about difficult issues honestly, but it’s really important to do. It’s really just a question of the tone that you use.”
    Fascinating interview with a descendant of slave owning forebears. This conversation, or those similar ought be in US and South Dakota history. South Dakota social studies ought to include and expand this discuss on its relationships with the tribes. It’s been 30 years since Governor Mickelson worked on reconciliation. Those who followed Mickelson were too small to meet the challenge of his example. Mickelson’s reconciliation ought be embedded in South Dakota’s social studies standards.

  33. V 2023-04-21

    I wonder how the social science professors of our universities will align these new standards to their curriculum?

  34. Donald Pay 2023-04-21

    What I wonder about is how education accrediting organizations are going to look at these standards/curriculum. I can’t imagine any professional organization approving the education provided through these standards/ curriculum.

    There is also this big question for students who are applying for higher education: How will various college admissions departments around the country look at students who have been dragged through years of this inadequate and dumbed down social studies standards/curriculum? These standards are certainly NOT in line with what most colleges and universities would want to see. These standards will probably hamstring students who are seeking a top-notch post-secondary education.

  35. John 2023-04-21

    US universities and colleges are struggling. Reasons abound, yet are mostly the faults of universities, save te demographic pyramid. For generations universities over charged, over staffed, and under delivered. Students are pushing back through strikes and just not buying the outdated lore that one needs a university degree to earn 6-figures. That same demographic pyramid is allowing occupations in the trades to flourish. This was predictable. The tone deafness practiced by university and college administrators is why they miss it – they have the selfish opinion “that it worked for me so it ought work for thee”.

    Meanwhile, some tech schools are picking up the vacuum of providing useful knowledge to the people. This expo on Saturday at Western Dakota Tech screams “legitimacy”. Recall that high school educated Russ Finch invented the passive geothermal greenhouse to grow oranges in Nebraska. Now WDT is rolling one out.

  36. Donald Pay 2023-04-21

    Noem’s political problem with these standards sis going to be the one that Governor Younkin of Virginia identified withTerry McCauliffe’s statement that parents should have no say in their children’s education. Parents testified at these hearings, and they overwhelmingly rejected these standards. Noem is saying to these parents, “I and my buttlicking board are going to tell you how your kids are going to be educated, and what you have to say about it doesn’t matter.”

    I really don’t think this is going to pass the smell test, especially with women. Moms, I found as a school board member and as an active PTO parent, are going to be heard on this, whether Noem wants to listen or not. They aren’t done advocating against these standards.

  37. All Mammal 2023-04-21

    John- So happy to hear Mr. Finch’s geothermal greenhouses have caught on with our technical schools. That is swell news for every man, woman, and child living in food deserts worldwide. Great cause for celebration this Earth Day.

  38. O 2023-04-21

    “The past” is not as far ago as some people would have you believe. Chris Rock in his most recent special talks about how his grandmother was not allowed to see a white dentist; instead she had to go to a vet to have dental work done. Pain and hurt are not fully in the rearview mirror.

    I know that Governor Nome involves her grandchildren for effect in her campaigning; just a reminder that not all grandmothers have had the opportunities this grandmother has had. Maybe decades from now Addie will speak of the CRAZY society she remembers when two-year olds were given shotguns and rifles by their grandparents and gets to remark on how far we have come from that nearly unimaginable affront to human decency.

  39. John 2023-04-22

    Quick thorough analysis of what ails US higher education, and suggestions on how to fix it.
    Maybe paywall, free to me via free subscription to a Bloomberg email newsletter without a Bloomberg subscription.

    “America’s university sector increasingly looks like the country’s car industry in the 1970s, just before it was taken apart by the Japanese — hampered by a giant bureaucracy, contemptuous of many of its workers, and congenitally inward-looking.”

  40. John 2023-04-26

    Imagine if the South Dakota social studies curriculum honestly, brutally dealt with slavery and US-Indian history. Imagine what a better state we’d have if school children were REQUIRED to tour Wounded Knee, and / or tour the Mankato site of the US’s largest mass execution.
    Feli offers her recent experience (she’s a young 29) from her German secondary education – regarding recent German history. She then surveys the educational experiences of other Germans from 18-65 – what was taught, how it was taught, field trips — all aimed at teaching the Holocaust. They study age-appropriate topics of the Wiemar Republic, the Great War, Depression, and how those, along with severe nationalism, brought the National Socialists to power, and then what they did with that power. The German history teaching is remarkably guilt-free and not shaming for the students. It also transcends several subjects: art, music, literature, etc.

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