Controversial new social studies standards to be reviewed this week

The 530 Sunday KOTA Territory News
Published: Sep. 18, 2022 at 7:20 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Governor Kristi Noem, and the state’s Department of Education, have gotten behind a new set of k-12 social studies standards, that will get their first public hearings Monday.

Since the commission to come up with new standards was formed, they’ve been criticized by those who believe the standards overlook historical events deemed controversial.

When Shaun Nielsen, a middle school social studies teacher in Rapid City joined the commission, he believed the teachers themselves would have more of a say in how social studies and history would be taught in South Dakota schools.

He said that he’s disappointed in the lack of input from educators.

“We’re writing a new owner’s manual from the classroom,” Nielsen said. “Teachers are experts at writing standards and they know full well how to assess a student, and we know exactly what they’re capable of.”

But state government officials are insistent that the new curriculum is better for South Dakota students.

Ben Jones is the Director of the State Historical Society, and a former South Dakota Secretary of Education.

He said in an op-ed this past week that he supports this method of teaching, using historical context to explain American democracy and its founding.

The op-ed reads:

These methods have their roots in a conservative educational movement, known as the ‘1776 Project.’ This was the Trump administration’s response to other educational movements that focused on historic societal ills, like slavery, and the genocide and assimilation of Native Americans.

The ACLU of South Dakota is calling out the new standards for ignoring Tribal input in the teaching of indigenous history and culture.

“The failure to consult with the tribal governments prior to these revisions is certainly discriminatory, and that’s a huge problem considering the federal government and the United States constitution recognize our tribes as sovereign nations,” said Stephanie Amiotte, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

The initial hearings by the Department of Education on the revisions are being held in Aberdeen.