PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Republican Governor Kristi Noem made clear Friday the path she wants for education in South Dakota and the nation. It’s not the one Democrat U.S. President Joe Biden wants.
Noem’s column, titled ‘Triumphs and Mistakes: Learning from Our History,” came on the heels of a Republican-dominated legislative committee last week voting to issue a letter telling her state Department of Education it shouldn’t apply for any federal grants in history or civics until after the 2022 legislative session.
Two officials from Noem’s administration, Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson and state historian Ben Jones, sent letters to the U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday criticizing the New York Times’ 1619 Project and the teachings of professor Ibram X. Kendi that the Biden administration’s proposed federal rule cites as good examples.
“This is inappropriate and un-American,” Noem said Friday about the 1619 Project and critical race theory. “It has no place in South Dakota, and it certainly has no place in South Dakota classrooms. According to many historians, this 1619 Project’s version of American history is full of errors and misstatements that should be avoided, not embraced.”
Republicans hold 94 of the Legislature’s 105 seats. Democrat Senator Reynold Nesiba said he would have voted against the Appropriations Committee’s decision on the letter of intent, but he was teaching class at Augustana University.
Nesiba sent a tweet Thursday about a book on the topic: “Being critical of critical race theory is AOK, but critical race theory is not SD GOP approved. So when you order and read this book later, remember to be critical. The SD government has already told you what to think about it. Isn’t there a word for government banning ideas?”
Tony Venhuizen, one of the governor’s former chiefs of staff, replied Friday, “Nobody is banning ideas here. In SD, the state Board of Education Standards sets K-12 content standards, and local schools set curriculum. The feds shouldn’t use strings on federal money to short circuit a locally-driven process.”
Asked Friday by KELOLAND News whether Noem had read the 1619 Project series, her communications director, Ian Fury, replied, “She started to review the 1619 Project and was so disgusted that she didn’t continue.”
The state Department of Education is starting a project to revise South Dakota’s K-12 standards for history and civics. Noem, who campaigned throughout the nation last year for the re-election of Republican U.S. President Donald Trump, referred to that revision effort in her column Friday.
“This past legislative session, I worked with the legislature to pass funding for robust civics education that helps our students to learn America’s history and everything that makes our country special. As part of that education, they’ll learn about the history of our state. They’ll learn the history of our tribes as well,” the column said.
“And they will learn about America’s mistakes – the times that we fell short of our ideal of equality – so that we can learn from those mistakes. But they’ll learn of our triumphs as well. They’ll learn about the leaders who made those triumphs possible,” the column said.
Fury pointed to that statement as part of the answer to another question, “Were the framers of the U.S. Constitution mistaken when they denied voting rights to Blacks, American Indians and women?”
The rest was the next part of the column: “As our children and grandchildren grow and learn, they should be taught the full picture of our nation’s history – our fundamental values, our greatest achievements, and the long struggles to overcome injustice as well. Our young people must understand the mistakes as well as the triumphs, of course. But those mistakes must be put in proper context, and right now I am concerned that this is not the case nationally.”
The South Dakota Democratic Party responded with a fundraising plea, “Gov. Kristi Noem is dangerously pushing what she calls ‘patriotic education’. Join us to stop Noem now.” A Democrat, or any other candidate, hasn’t publicly stepped forward yet to challenge Noem’s 2022 re-election.
In 2018, the then-U.S. Representative defeated Democrat Billie Sutton 172,912 to 161,454 with Libertarian Kurt Evans getting 4,848 votes.
A recent South Dakota State University public opinion survey found Republicans ranked Noem highest among the state’s top four elected offices, while U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson was higher overall among all voters surveyed.