Department of Education unveils latest draft of controversial social studies standards

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The Department of Education releases draft social studies standards for K-12 students in South Dakota.

Last year, the proposed standards faced controversy following the removal of specific references to the state’s Indigenous peoples.

“South Dakota’s children deserve the best social education in the country,” Gov. Kristi Noem said in a press release. “These standards raise the bar for the breadth and depth of civic and historical education. They present a true, honest, and balanced approach to American history that is uninfluenced by political agendas. And by those standards, our students will focus more than ever on Native American history and culture.

A statement announcing the project says the new standards include “promoting love of country” and “education free from political agendas and activism.”

The committee that drafted the new content standards was handpicked by Governor Noem. The commission included his chief of staff; a retired professor from Hillsdale College, which is a private Christian institution in Michigan; two Republican legislators; and the head of the South Dakota Catholic Conference, among others.

The new 128 pages Disorganized comes a year after a content standards review had already taken place.

Paul Harens is a retired social studies professor from Yankton. Harnes served on the first Content Standards Review Panel, whose draft proposal was amended by the Department of Education. A public outcry over these changes led the governor to appoint a new commission.

Harens says the governor returned political standards when they shouldn’t have been.

“If you go back to the original standards that the committee, the group released last year, those weren’t political like his,” Harens said. “We talked about the real story. She skips the real story. It all comes from her.”

Harens fears that new content standards will be modernized to pave the way for a program of 1776 lesson plan, such as that provided by Hillsdale College.

Noem says she was the “first candidate or official” to sign the 1776 pledge, which aims to counter what supporters call “un-American indoctrination.”

The project runs counter to the 1619 Project, which examines how slavery has shaped American society in the 400 years since slaves were first brought to the colonies.

The state of South Dakota is accept public comments on draft standards.

The standards and public comment forum are available online at the state Department of Education website.

The Board of Education Standards will hold a public hearing on September 19 in Aberdeen and again in Sioux Falls on November 21. Other dates and locations are to be determined.

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