SD Board of Regents commits to no “Critical Race Theory”

“Critical Race Theory” has become one of the most hotly contested issues in the country, and South Dakota has been no exception.
Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 6:59 AM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota Board of Regents has taken steps to prevent the teaching of “critical race theory” on the campuses of the states public colleges and universities.

“Critical Race Theory is not the basis for instruction in our state universities and it’s not going to be. But this is a label that means different things to different people,” said Regent Tony Venhuizen. “That’s why our board today is taking a step back and stating the American values that will continue to guide the university system.”

The Board laid out the four pillars by which they would like to see instruction on college campuses focused around; (1) offering opportunity for all students; (2) proudly supporting the United States of America; (3) safeguarding the rich tradition of American universities; and (4) offering curriculum based upon widely held and accepted knowledge and thought.

Nathan Lukkes, General Counsel to the Board of Regents, pointed out that the move does not necessarily “ban” anything at present, given they do not believe that critical race theory is currently taught on any public campuses.

“There is no evidence we have a widespread problem in South Dakota,” Lukkes said. “It is about providing the appropriate guidiance and parameters so that it doesn’t potentially become a problem down the road.”

Rather, Lukkes says the move will set up parameters for college classes.

“If you asked five different people on the street what critical race theory means, you’re likely going to get three to five different answers,” said Lukkes.

University of South Dakota Political Science Professor Timothy Schorn agrees that critical race theory, as it is currently understood, is not currently taught in his classes, nor by his peers.

“When I look at the discussion around critical race theory, I think really we are having two different conversations,” suggested Schorn. “One is ‘What is critical race theory?’ And the other question is ‘What and how do universities teach?’”

Schorn also challenges the premise of not teaching ideas one might disagree with.

“I teach political theory, along with covering Aristotle, Machiavelli, Locke, and Hobbes, I also cover Marx,” explained Schorn. “I’m not turning one into a Marxist that I know of, I am not telling them it is what they have to believe either.”

Republican politicians in South Dakota, to include Governor Kristi Noem, have been vocal critics of critical race theory, and attempts to teach it both in grade schools, and on college campuses.

It is likely that legislation is brought during the 2022 state legislative session that further restricts access to critical race theory as a teaching material.

The South Dakota Board of Regents will meet on October 6th and 7th at the South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City, to further discuss the specifics of this policy moving forward.