Late last week, Gov. Kristi Noem hit the reset button on an effort to revise South Dakota’s social studies standards after the end product of the recent process drew criticism from several sides, even from those who were tasked with crafting those standards.

This most likely won’t end the controversies, but for now, starting over is the best course.

Since this effort began several months ago, one specter hovering over it was Noem’s intent to come up with something that closely mirrored the 1776 Project proposed by former President Donald Trump a year ago. The mission of that project was to, in effect, promote America’s greatness while mostly glossing over some of the more problematic terrain such as the role of racism in this country.

The group tasked with writing South Dakota’s new social studies standards began its work several months ago. According to former Yankton High School teacher Paul Harens, who was part of that group, they were told by a Department of Education (DOE) representative that the state was criticized the last time the standards were redrawn for not being inclusive enough in terms of Native American culture and history. The DOE rep advised them, “‘I would like to see every group have at least one standard for the Native Americans,’” Harens told the Press & Dakotan

The group did its work with that in mind, he said, including the crafting of a preamble to serve as a mission statement for its efforts and submitted the final document in late June.

But when those proposed standards were released several weeks later, they had been greatly revised. Harens said only two sentences of the preamble had been kept, with the rest rewritten. Also, “they eliminate(d), I think it was, three-fourths of the Native American standards,” he said. “We were told to do one thing. We did it, and they took it away. That’s why we were so shocked.”

Harens said efforts to find out who authorized those changes have made little headway. But he said the fact that the final document closely mirrors the 1776 Project recommendations — which he said “whitewashes” U.S. history and “massively skip(s) over the indigenous population in the United States” — likely offers some guidance.

“It’s basically the 1776 Project or comments that (Noem) has made,” Harens said. “Somebody had to tell the Department of Education to make those changes, and it wasn’t somebody in the Department of Education. I don’t know who it was, but I can make a guess.”

The uproar over this has been quite strong, and Noem, who had earlier put a delay on the process, pulled the plug last week and announced a do-over.

“Our focus remains the same: ensuring that South Dakota students learn a true and honest account of American and South Dakota history,” the governor said.

But how it will be done over remains to be seen. Many education officials were unhappy with the final proposal issued, while some conservative entities have been critical of what are viewed as liberal efforts in crafting the document. Also, Noem took to social media recently and said “radical education activists” were trying to impose a left-wing agenda. “Restoring honest & true American & South Dakota history in our schools won’t be easy but we must win,” she said in words that were echoed in last week’s statement.

So, you can see where this might be headed.

It seems that the best place to start, or re-start, this process is to follow the DOE’s original advice: Be inclusive. We can’t shunt the Native American aspect of the state’s history to a back burner. Indigenous views need to be well represented on whatever group is formed to write these standards.

“We’ve made enough mistakes in education,” Harens said. “Let’s not make another one.”

Revising the standards should be seen as an effort to cultivate some constructive honesty in the educational process, and that needs to be the mission going forward.  



(8) comments

Mr. T

Here’s a thought that has nothing to do with this topic, but I think is worth considering.

I believe the readership of the Press & Dakotan is the better part of 10,000 South Dakotans.

Probably most of these folks read Kelly’s opinions in the print version. Maybe a few more read the contributions of folks who write letters to the editor.

But all of us know some of the most interesting reading is in the follow up.

Someone should write a letter to these pages pointing this out and reminding people that anyone with an internet connection can follow along and even contribute.

The software is simple, and everyone with a paper subscription gets rights to unlimited online access.

Probably the best people to write this letter would be those on this feed who choose to have their names known and send letters to the editor AND comment on this feed.

The challenge for anyone writing this letter is to remove their opinions from the main point. No reason to scare folks off with a tirade.

There will be plenty of time for opinions later. And maybe even more pairs of eyes to read them.

And the main point is: The dialogue following “Letters to the Editor” is worth following.

Maybe we’ll get some rewarding company.

Red Cloud

South Dakota’s version of the conflict over Critical Race Theory is upsetting you immigrants isn’t it?

In all its versions, CRT is the examination of how one race dominates in America. Something that’s been clear since the Founding. Something you pale ones find uncomfortable to acknowledge.

It’s been this way almost since the moment Columbus “discovered” America. This has always been obvious to some of us.

But what’s new is that Euro-Americans will soon be a minority. And CRT reminds you folks that before long you’ll be living in a USA where Black, Brown, Yellow and Red Americans will be the majority. And you're afraid of what’s coming. Aren’t you?

Together with the younger Euro-Americans who care more about the elusive “American Dream” than their race loyalty, this new version of America is changing your traditional white people’s politics.

This might take several generations. But the demographics make it seem certain. Old white people have gathered together in the GOP to make a last stand, but the numbers are against them.

South Dakota and the rest of America is going through an identity crisis. You can already see the beginnings in South Dakota’s few cities.

And just a few minutes watching national TV will show you much of the rest of the country is NOT mostly European stock like our fair state.

All around you is the most racially diverse generation in U.S. history: About 45% of millennials and nearly 50% of Gen Zers are people of color, compared with only 30% of you white baby boomers.

Your kids are more comfortable in this new America than you are. Yet I know what you're going through. You see your way of life threatened.

If I were more objective, I might even have sympathy.

But at least you’ll be able to keep your property.

Jolly Roger

Our Governor isn’t as smart as Sarah Palin, but she sure was hoping to become the new MAGA sweetheart by supporting whatever Trump wants.

But now she’s fallen in disfavor with the MAGA crowd. (Google “Noem National Review”)

Kristi has managed the impossible! With her bungled drive to national notoriety she’s united left and right in opposing her ham-handed politics.

If only it didn't - yet again - expose South Dakota to ridicule in both the left and right national press.

Way to go, sweetheart‼️


And who can forget “Meth - we’re on it”?

Kristi is a one-woman comedy routine. Tina Fey should get back in the SNL act.

Gimmy A. Breake

This Kristi kerfuffle is no big deal.

What’s more entertaining is watching her steal.

So Kristi helps family. What’s the big b*tch?

Didn’t Dear Leader make HIS family rich?

Some dozen Trump stalwarts convicted of fraud

while our Trumpster friends freak at the “squad.”

Did Kristi wire a contract? Extort a license?

It makes one wonder at her paltry contrivance.

If this is the most she could manage to steal,

she's just a rookie at the “Art of the Deal.”

So it’s business as usual in our Capitol Pierre.

If it’s money for family, there’s nothing to fear.


Let’s keep to the subject people.

Since amateurs are going to teach history to our kids, I might as well get into the act. It's really pretty simple.

The True History of South Dakota:

The prairie was just an empty, unused wasteland where nobody really lived except for a few shiftless and bloodthirsty Native Americans.

God anointed Euro Americans to help them to

1)- transition to a farming culture on their bountiful reservations carved out just for them.

2)- Or die trying.

Strangely, a great number of them chose option #2.

We all lived happily ever after.

What’s so hard about this?

Mr. T

Mr. Cloud wrote, “Old white people have gathered together in the GOP to make a last stand, but the numbers are against them.”

He’s right about the numbers:

(“Multiracial populations increased faster than any single race across the U.S. in the last census. Gains were highest in major metro areas, but the number of people identifying as multiracial also tripled in non-metro areas.”)

But I fear he’s mistaken about “the GOP making a last stand.” “Last stand” seems a bit of an overstatement.

Most probably the GOP will be fighting until their numbers shrink enough that their gerrymandering and vote-limiting legislation is no longer sufficient to hold onto their entitlement.

The population trends are against them in the long run, however, the next elections seem likely to return them to power and will only enhance their ability to obstruct a greater political representation of our younger and more diverse demographics.

This is unfortunate, in my opinion, but European Americans have dominated the political structure of America since the beginning, and it would be naive to think this would change quickly without significant strife.

Our most recent history clearly illustrates this.


After recounting the True History of Native Americans, I see it’s just as easy to lay out the True History of how millions of Black immigrants played an early and essential role in helping us realize the American Dream.

This is my patriotic effort to combat the confusion of CRT which threatens our harmonious melting pot in America where every right-thinking individual of color has the opportunity to become an honorary white person.

Only people who “hate America'' could possibly disagree.

The True History of Black Americans:

After Columbus discovered America, Europeans were disappointed to learn how hard it was to get good help in the New World.

The malingering Native Americans kept on dying from mysterious diseases, and those slothful shirkers who didn’t perish, irresponsibly walked off the job to hide in the countryside.

Fortunately, many unemployed Black folks in Africa lined up for free passage in European ships to find opportunity in the New World.

There these enterprising pilgrims of color were converted to the gentle blessings of the Christian religion which guided the humanitarian sensibilities of their European benefactors.

And - to everyone’s benefit - they learned new job skills!

Again, we all live happily ever after.

So really, people, what’s so hard about all of this?

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