This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: A paraphrased quote was updated to clarify the speaker’s position.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — Proponents and opponents discussed the proposed social studies standards for a third time in the South Dakota Board of Education Standard’s first meeting of 2023 at the Rushmore Hotel in Rapid City. 

The public hearing on the proposed social studies standards, which were first released in August 2022 and amended in January 2023, had 90 minutes of testimony in favor and against the proposed standards.

Vera Tipton with the Department of Education said concerns with geography standards were amended. She also said there will be a two-year transition for implementation of the proposed social studies. She said the Department of Education will provide a civics and history summit for teachers this summer. 

After all of the testimony, Tipton said there’s been 1,094 public comments submitted since the proposed standards were released. As of Feb. 7, the public comments have been 117 proponent, 940 opponent and 37 neutral comments. 

Board member Steve Willard said the process right now is great because of the debate on academics. He asked if any action could be made on the proposed standards. DOE officials said no action could be made until after the four hearings.

The final public hearing on the proposed social studies standards will be held on Monday, April 17 in Pierre. 

Each speaker had four minutes to speak, below is a brief summary of what each person said to the board.

Opponents ask for redo on social studies standards

Christopher Bordeaux, executive director of the Oceti Sakowin Education Commission and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said the process from the Department of Education wasn’t followed. 

Donna Robinson criticized the Hillsdale College connection to the proposed social studies standards. She said Hillsdale isn’t a leader in public education. 

Shaun Nielsen, the lone K-12 educator on the commission and a Rapid City teacher, said teachers did not have adequate representation. He said the standards were handed to the commission and only a few lines were able to be changed or tweaked. 

“I remain disappointed in this flawed process,” Nielsen said. 

Nielsen said the mountain of opposition is loud and clear. 

Jennifer Macziewski, representing herself, said the standards will require her kids to learn about warfare at a young age. She said teachers like herself are screaming to be heard. 

She said 300 teachers have publicly opposed the new standards. She criticized the meeting dates being switched from a Saturday in Pierre to Friday in Rapid City.

Diane Wimp, an English teacher at Rapid City Central, said she was representing herself. Wimp said 60 stakeholders were used for the state standards for mathematics and that was the proper process for social studies standards two years ago. 

She said the state should be embarrassed for spending $200,000 on the out-of-state standards.

Jamie Clapham, Rapid City PTA Council President, said the preamble was written at the college level and the proposed standards require first graders to memorize it. She asked about collaboration with teachers.

“Show us that you hear us. Do not adopt these standards,” Clapham said. 

Thomas Mack, a concerned parent, said the standards aren’t age appropriate. He said he thinks of his son in the fourth-grader and some of the vocabulary he’d learn from the Declaration of Independence.

He said he’s concerned about implementation by teachers because many teachers aren’t required to take many history classes in college. 

Monique Keck, a former teacher, said she was part of the 2021 social studies commission. She said elementary-level teachers were excluded from the process of developing the standards. 

She said the math standards for young learners are to know 0-110, but social studies would expand centuries of time.

Lynn Arnold, a parent, said she is an unhappy taxpayer. She said middle school topics are being covered in first grade. She said memorization is more important than critical thinking in the proposed standards. 

“It’s like a bad Saturday Night Live skit but it’s not funny because it’s our children,” Arnold said.

Dr. Wade Pogany, executive director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, said many school boards are concerned about the proposed standards. He said there is political pressure to pass them while there’s overwhelming opposition from teachers. He said a third option is to start over. 

“Folks, we need to stop. This isn’t common sense,” Pogany said. “It will take courage to send these back and redo this.” 

John Way, with Elevate Rapid City, said the economic development organization for Rapid City and the Black Hills opposes the proposed standards. He said the sheer volume will overwhelm classrooms. He said they represent an unfunded mandate at a time when schools already have tight budgets. 

Sherri Becker, past president of the South Dakota Association for School Curriculum Directors, said many education leaders believe public comments won’t make a difference in the process.

“More doesn’t mean more rigorous,” Becker said. “It’s just more stuff.”

She cites first graders having to recite the preamble as a problem with the proposed standards.

Cozette Dorton, of Custer, said she taught 39 years. She said the foundational principle of community is missing from the proposed standards. 

Amy Sazue, representing herself, said she’s raised four kids in Rapid City. She said education experts were not consulted enough. She said the proposed standards depict indigenous people as part of the past and not part of the state. 

Valeriah Big Eagle, with Friends of the Children, said the standards need to be revised again. She said political agendas should be aside and the board needs to act with integrity. 

Donald Porter, a father of students who graduated from Rapid City public schools, said he’s been humbled by the previous speakers. Porter said the proposed standards are an experiment. 

Dr. Samantha Walder, representing elementary school principals, said the content is not age-appropriate.   

Proponents share support

Dr. Ben Jones, the state historian, said South Dakota’s current social studies standards were ranked C- and D+ by Fordham Institute. David Griffith, Associate Director of Research at the Fordham Institute, signed a letter of support of the proposed social studies standards this week.

Griffith said a bipartisan report from the Fordham Institute showed how many states have bad standards. He said the volume of content might be overwhelming if only 28 minutes are dedicated to social studies at the elementary level.

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the very good,” Griffith said.  

Kirby Calhoun, with Field Coordinator Christians United For Israel, said he supports the social studies standards. He said he’d like to see additional standards regarding the Holocaust.

Justin Warbel, representing himself, said Dec. 7, 1941 is a day that lives in infamy. He said people don’t know Jan. 27, 1945 is the day Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated.  

Greg Von Wald is supporting the proposed social studies standards on his own behalf. He said South Dakota had 52% of citizens fail a U.S. Citizenship test. 

“Something in social studies education needs to change,” Von Wald said.

Dr. Joseph Bottum said the proposed social studies are a move towards teaching students to be good citizens. Bottum said education still teaches for skills rather than content. 

“We owe our children better,” Bottum said.

Scott Odenbach, a state lawmaker from Spearfish, said he was representing himself. He called the social studies standards “aspirational.”  

Jessica Castleberry, a state Senator from Rapid City, said early education must be broken down into levels. She said the standards have been tailor-made for South Dakota and the proposed standards are still a draft. 

She said opponents shouldn’t throw their hands in the air and say it can’t be done, but rather they should look for creative solutions. 

Terri Jorgenson with Concerned Women for America of South Dakota said the standards have logical progression. 

Chad Bishop said he’s in favor of the proposed social studies standards, but would like amendments to the concept of propaganda as well as misinformation and disinformation.

Mike Mueller with South Dakota Citizens for Liberty said he supports the standards.   

Taffy Howard, a former state lawmaker, said she’s a mom and history is her passion. She said the standards set up the knowledge at the elementary age to build on those in middle and high school. 

“This does not sugarcoat history,” Howard said. “It’s all in there and it needs to be there.”

Howard said the state is spending about $11,000 per student and the state is failing kids. 

Florence Thompson, a retired school psychologist, said school unions don’t get to decide.

Tonchi Weaver said to focus on due process and not take much stock in local school board’s opposition. 

Fred Osborn, director of South Dakota’s Office of Indian Education, said the standards advance the knowledge of Native Americans in South Dakota. 

Jon Schaff, a member of the commission and political science professor at Northern State University, said he was speaking on his own Friday. 

Schaff said the standards set the bar high and the standards can be met successfully. He said is proud of the work the commission did.

Anika Prather, the Director High Quality Curriculum and Instruction at Johns Hopkins University, said a content-rich curriculum is important. She said students must be prepared to engage with multiple perspectives of history. 

David Randall, Director of Research, National Association of Scholars, said the proposed standards are some of the best in the nation. He said it provides factual content instead of skills.  

Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said he is very supportive of the proposed standards. He said Jewish history in South Dakota is important. He said the Holocaust should be addressed more.

Tim Weisz, President of the Aberdeen Catholic School System, said critical thinking skills require basic knowledge of facts. He said there needs to be a solid base of knowledge to develop sophisticated analysis.

Heather Fields, Moms for Liberty in Pennington County, said there’s a division in the nation’s thinking. She said she doesn’t want the patriotic education dismissed because it is too hard. She said children are flooded with propaganda that America is racist and flawed. 

Michael Monfore said Native Americans are brainwashed to demonize Christians and white people. He said he wants accurate information about Native American history. President Terry Nebelsick intervened to make sure Monfore stayed on the topic of social studies standards.

Two people testified as proponents but did not share testimony in favor of the standards and Nebelsick gave extra time to opponents and proponents.

The Board of Education elected Julie Westra as vice president. Terry Nebelsick is the new president of the Board of Education Standards. 

Gov. Noem appoints new board member

This past week, Gov. Kristi Noem appointed Steven Perkins to the Board of Education Standards replacing Aberdeen superintendent Becky Guffin. 

Also this week, the South Dakota Department of Education released a letter signed by a variety of out-of-state education policy leaders. 

The nine education experts span from the University of Virginia, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, Middle Tennessee State University and the former chancellor of New York City Public Schools.

There is no current state or federal test that measures how students are learning about social studies in South Dakota at the present time. The proposed social studies standards doesn’t change that, but part of how public schools are accredited is through aligning with statewide standards.