Educators are bristling under the weight of expanded curriculum content, and expectations--Parents are fed-up
September 16, 2022 By Breeauna Sagdal
Every seven years the Department of Education is required, by law, to review and update public school curriculum standards. The Social Studies standards, previously led by Chiesman Center for Democracy and implemented in 2015
, are now due for revision.
Last year, a similarly comprised committee to that of the 2015 committee, was created to offer a new proposal. However, sources on the Board of Education have told The Dakota Leader that the product was a total flop, sparked outrage and had more than 600 people testify against the first draft.
"For whatever reason, Native American history and culture was stripped out of the proposed standards, and the entire thing turned out to be a nightmare," our source shared on the condition of anonymity. At issue, was the removal of over a dozen references to the Oceti Sakowin tribe, which led to public outrage, and a march on the Capitol in September of last year.
The Board of Education put out a statement regarding the first draft, and said that the process should start over and be, "free from political activism and agendas." In response, Gov. Kristi Noem agreed, then announced a new committee would be created. The new committee was chaired by Noem's former Chief of Staff, Mark Miller in consultation with William Morrisey, a former Hillsdale College Professor and various Tribal Leaders
Professor Morrisey led the work group, and placed an open invitation for educators, and tribal leaders to help craft the new standards. In August the new group released their draft standards. Within 24 hours the South Dakota Teacher's Union (SDEA) released a statement
deriding the new draft as not being age appropriate and employing memorization over critical thinking skills.
In an effort to try and better understand both sides of the argument, The Dakota Leader reached out to Utah Professor Connor Warner. Professor Warner authored a published study in 2015
, in which he analyzed the Social Studies Standards of 14 states. Hoping to end harmful stigmatizations of Indigenous peoples, that he shares in the study have impacted his wife, Warner set about trying to find root causes of bias.
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"She doesn't look like an Indian!" Warner shares that new acquaintances often carry stigmas about how his wife "should look." "I tell new
acquaintances that my wife is a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Such a
statement is, of course, untrue. My wife â€œlooksâ€ exactly like an Indian; she is
an Indian, which is
a complex social, political, cultural, and ethnic identity," Warner shares anecdotally.
The study claims that schools have played a large role in creating stigmas and bias, as they
serve as "vehicles of assimilation and deculturalization." Most notably, the study found that Native history and culture was mainly being taught in elementary school, and limited to historical representations of Indigenous people like Pocahontas.
The study offers that bias is likely created due to the fact that living representations of Native people, life on or off the reservation, and important socioeconomic cues, are largely left out of the conversation.
Professor Warner reviewed the newly proposed South Dakota Social Studies Standards, and compared them against the 2015 standards at our request. "The 2015 standards are much less specific, leaving it up to districts or even individual teachers to decide what knowledge and skills to use in order to meet those standards. As with anything in education, there are pros and cons to both approaches," Warner responded.
"The proposed standards show a significant increase in reference to Native peoples and nations, probably more comprehensive than most states in the country," Warner says. Adding, "however, from an educatorâ€™s standpoint, I can envision the proposed standards receiving pushback because they are very detailed and prescriptive. The proposed standards are knowledge heavyâ€”that is, they prescribe very specific things that students need to know (e.g. the lists of people, etc)."
Warner continues, "the field of social studies education, as a whole, has moved away from this approach to emphasize disciplinary thinking skills and processes." As an example, Warner cites the new standards of the National Council of the Social Studies.
According to a statement put out by Michael Kroll of the Warner School District
, Professor Warner is right on target. "The standards have moved away from higher order thinking skills like 'compare and contrast', 'analyze', and 'explain the importance of'," Kroll writes to educators and parents in the district before giving examples.
Kroll also acknowledges that the volume of course material has greatly increased for all grade levels. Although the course heavy standards are exactly what the public asked for
, have been given an additional budget, and two years for districts to integrate prior to being implemented, some say it's just too much work
Others appear to be more divided on the standards along political lines, as evidenced by the comment section of Gov. Noem's social media accounts.
The proposed standards are based upon Hillsdale Curriculum, currently being taught nation-wide. As a result, many have taken aim at the involvement of William Morrisey, and say the standards are part of a "culture war."
However, the 2015 standards were led by the Chiesman Center for Democracy, which fueled criticism and allegations of political pedagogy in the previous curriculum. Chiesman is the political science division of the University of South Dakota, and in 2017 Chiesman engaged in a campaign to get people to "blindly sign initiative petitions
, without disclosing who had funded it."
Last week Breitbart gained access to exclusive emails sent from Dr Becky Guffin
, chair of the Education Commission, who has tried to "torpedo" the standards from behind the scenes. The Dakota Leader has also been made aware that various curriculum directors state-wide have sent out emails, or held in-person meetings with staff, to mount opposition to the standards.
Meanwhile, a coalition of parents have told The Dakota Leader that they are hopeful, and look forward to the challenges of "more rigorous content focused on factual history, without politics involved." Parents say they intend on being at the meeting Monday, in an effort to "counteract the teacher's unions," who they say "are pushing CRT." (Critical Race Theory)
Monday, September 19, 2022 at 9am, the Board of Education will host the first public comment meeting at the Dakota Event Center, 720 Lamont Street South, Aberdeen.
The deadline to register for public comment ends Friday September 16, 2022 at 5pm. Testimony can be given in-person, or via zoom, and as tensions run high, officials say they are anticipating large crowds during both public comment periods.
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--Breeauna Sagdal- Editor At Large
|Post Date: 2022-09-16 08:49:36||Last Update: 2022-09-16 11:12:29|