South Dakota education social studies standards redo sparks controvery

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Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 11:59 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -

Every seven years, the State of South Dakota reviews its social studies standards for public education. Governor Noem scrapped the findings of the scheduled review in 2021, and a new commission was formed to start the progress again in 2022. The most recent facilitator from Hillsdale curriculum brought in their organization’s mindset.

Educator and representative Linda Duba believes the curriculum does not reflect realistic expectations, such as having first-grade students memorize and recite the preamble to the constitution.

“They struggle with the Pledge of Allegiance. I know. I’ve recently left that venue, and I understand what first graders can and cannot say,” said Duba.

Representative Steven Haugaard believes students can achieve more.

“Well, I think we sometimes underestimate what kids can do. We don’t expect a high degree of discipline among our kids. And that doesn’t mean you have to be ruthless and cruel to them. It just means you can do so much more. There’s such a great opportunity here. Let’s not waste these years,” said Haugaard.

Anthropologist and School board member, Dr. Rich Meyers of Crazy Horse School is concerned about the conclusion of the curriculum.

“But what it does is it has an ending which is to try to be like the Wizard of Oz, like everything was meant to be a beautiful place now. Well, that’s fine as human beings go, but in order to do that, you have to acknowledge the validity of the past and the accurate history,” said Meyers.

Concerned lawmakers, parents, and teachers are bringing up the review process. Duba says in 2021, a facilitator guided the review, and the 46 members wrote the standards. However, after that review was scrapped, the 2022 review was written by the facilitator with the input of only 15 members.

“The paradox is trying to make the statement that you want an unbiased, unpolished, politically defined history and social studies analysis and there you are loading it up,” said Meyers.

Haugaard believes an ideal situation is to inspire students to learn.

“It should be done in such a way that kids are enticed to the idea that I just want to learn everything I can. I know that’s not the nature of education these days. Oftentimes it is more crowd control and trying to address issues in the classroom and, and family issues,” said Haugaard.

Duba believes more communication could bring solutions.

“People working out of the Governor’s office aren’t talking to teachers. They’re not talking to administrators. I think what we need to do is listen to the experts,” said Duba.