Removal of new references to Native Americans from South Dakota history and civics curriculum surprises group members
It was cordial. Group work was tedious. And the group produced standards that will eventually pass the Board of Education Standards.
In many ways, reviewing social studies standards resembled reviewing fine arts, group members say. Until no.
The narrative of South Dakota’s history may be as old as the state itself: how to balance the story of westward expansion and house-building by agrarian settlers with the taking Black Hills illegality and the breaking of treaties with the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota tribes.
But the almost once-a-decade rewrite of standards spanning world history to geography to US and state history has become downright volatile over the past two months.
A wish to reorganize civic literacy
In early 2021, Governor Kristi Noem pledged to rework the state’s civic education program, which she called the national civic education crisis that led to the riots at the United States Capitol on Jan.6. supporters of President Trump.
But midway through the legislative season, Noem’s office softened discussions of a political overtaking of the state’s civic education classes, with his own Secretary in the Department of Education, Tiffany Sanderson, who asked a request for $ 1 million to fund grant opportunities and a state history project. Any change to civic standards, officials said, would go through a routine, if not trivial, task force to be convened – on a seven-year schedule – that summer.
In June, this group of teachers, professors, lawmakers and community members met for two weeks in Pierre. The work was exhausting and technical, but collaborative with many opportunities for consensus. While two politically conservative members left their names on the final report, members said the group – at the request of administration officials – understood that it was necessary to avoid incorporating very loaded concepts around the race or class in their final proposition, such as critical race theory.
They also didn’t need to be told to do so.
“It’s not taught,” said Paul Harens, retired history teacher at Yankton High School. “I came home that night and made calls – Watertown, Sioux Falls, Huron – they all answered me and said, ‘Nobody teaches it. “”
At the end of July, the working group submitted its final product. It largely resembled the norms of the past, with a renewed emphasis on the role of women and Native Americans in the historic fabric of the state.
A modified report
But in early August, when Noem’s Department of Education gave the first public glimpse of proposed standards for world history, geography, state history, and US government, they pulled away – in terms and emphasis – of the report prepared by the working group.
Gone are the recommendations for elementary school students to learn the names of the nine tribal nations with reservations on state borders. Dozens of new references to Indigenous history and culture, including attention to tribal financial and political systems, have also disappeared. Even a recommendation to analyze the Electoral College had been deleted. More structurally, an entire category based on “survey” had been removed from each grade level. The final draft left the working group members stunned.
Some members of the working group requested that their names be removed. Some went public, while others stormed in private. Since then, members of the public have also filed 82 pages of commentary, almost universally opposed to the DOE’s removal of Indigenous learning goals for standards.
“I hope you will consider adopting the standards as the committee wrote them,” K-12 educator Laura Cooper wrote. “Many years of expertise and hours of work are represented in their proposal, and state standards should represent the efforts of the task force.”
“I want the aboriginal section back into the curriculum,” wrote Denise Red Horse, a relative.
In an interview earlier this month, Stephen Jackson, a Ph.D. in history who teaches at the University of Sioux Falls and has participated in the World History Panel, said it’s not just the removal of a standard, but also the violation of a process that particularly bothered the members of the working group.
“Especially at a time when social studies is the center of national attention, the integrity of the review process is very important,” Jackson said in an interview on Tuesday, Sept. 14. “But in this case, substantive revisions were made outside of the normal. Settings for the revisions.”
Response to revised standards
Political friends in the administration have made a small effort to support the revised DOE standards. In public comments on Social Studies Standards, Rep. Carl Perry, R-Aberdeen, wrote: “As long as we stay away from CRT… I’m fine. Social studies, geography, math, and English are all important for growth. “
In a column published on a conservative blog, Tony Venhuizen, Noem’s former chief of staff and newly appointed member of the Board of Regents, criticized the drafted standards, drawing attention to Native American topics “well out of proportion to others. topics. “
“I’ll admit that just counting references to a certain topic is a crass and imprecise way to assess standards,” Venhuizen admitted, but he still maintained that “the summer project makes Native Americans and tribal topics the most prevalent topic in all of K-12 social studies. “
But many say that such a focus was long overdue. On Monday, September 13, a group of indigenous protesters, led by the Rapid City collective NDN, marched on Pierre, calling for Sanderson’s resignation and the restoration of the standards proposed by the task force.
That evening Noem posted a two minute video on Twitter in which she argued for the new standards – even those edited by DOE – increased references to Indigenous culture from six to 28, compared to current standards.
But a week later, Noem backtracked, announcing a full hiatus, acknowledging that the DOE had “significantly” changed the task force’s proposal.
“Following public comments from several constituencies,” Noem said in a statement, “it is clear that there is still work to be done to get it right.”
Who made the changes?
As of Thursday, September 23, band members don’t know who made the changes. DOE spokespersons did not disclose who made the changes, simply saying the education agency approved the changes. The governor’s office has also been silent on who led the changes.
There are also indications that by “multiple constituencies” Noem may have referred to out-of-state commentators, not just tribal communities in the state.
Hours after announcing the break on Monday, Noem tweeted from his political account that “radical education activists” were “plotting” to use critical lenses to talk about race and racism in America. This language was borrowed from a column published earlier today by Stanley Kurtz in The National Review, in which he lambasted the involvement of the American Institute of Research, a non-partisan education consulting firm hired by Dakota. South to help with revisions.
AIR spokesperson Dana Tofig, who has worked with states from Illinois to Texas, defended the group in an email Thursday, September 23.
“Our role in this effort has been to facilitate the review process under the direction and guidance of the South Dakota DOE,” Tofig said, noting that the company has long been consulting revisions and rewrites of standards “in almost all the states of the United States – including blue and the red states. “
A more expansive narrative
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, the Oceti Sakowin nation – especially schools – struggled over how to give a broader view of American history. In the 2021 legislative session, Senator Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said he hoped for a more solid discussion of Oceti Sakowin’s principles in state classrooms while pushing the bill forward. 68 of the Senate, which would have established Native charter schools.
“It went on for 40 years, if not over 100 years,” Heinert said.
When this bill was defeated, Heinert reaffirmed his call for schools to more directly address Native American dropout rates.
What happens next is a guess. Noem’s office has yet to set a plan for how social studies standards will be revisited. And so the story of how to tell the story of South Dakota will continue.
On Tuesday, September 14, Board of Education Standards chairwoman Jacqueline Sly, a former Republican lawmaker from Rapid City and longtime special education teacher, said she observed the process, especially the administration’s interference. , with curiosity.
“I had never seen so much change before,” said Sly, appointed by former governor Dennis Daugaard in 2017. But she promised the board would fully listen to the public when it approves the standards or the standards. would revise.
“I’m a collaborator and I work to build consensus and work to find that compromise that people are comfortable with,” said Sly, who has spent more than 30 years in the classroom. “And I think anyone who has an investment in social studies standards should come forward and speak up.”