Noem says executive order protects students from Critical Race Theory

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NOTE: This story has been updated to correctly state that Education Week is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan news source.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Gov. Kristi Noem has banned the South Dakota Department of Education from applying for the available $2.1 million grants in history and civics because of her concerns over ties to Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Noem signed an executive order on the ban today.

According to the July 19 Federal Register, the $2.1 million in available grants are geared to higher education institutions “other nonprofit or for-profit organization with demonstrated expertise in the development of evidence-based approaches with the potential to improve the quality of American history, civics and government, or geography learning and teaching.”

Noem has requested a review of policies from the South Dakota Board of Regents to “ensure the state’s higher education system remains focused on honest, patriotic education,” according to a news release from the state.

“CRT tells us that racism is the DNA of our country,” Noem’s senior communication advisor Jordan Overturf said.

 “Critical race theory has no place in South Dakota schools. These ideas are un-American. We are ‘one nation, under God, indivisible,’ yet critical race theory seeks to divide us based on inaccurate revisions to our nation’s history,” Gov. Kristi Noem said in a news release.

There is no immediate concern for South Dakota K-12 Schools, Overturf said.

“CRT is not taught in South Dakota schools and we want to make sure it’s not,” Overturf said.

“Our district teaches curricula based on state standards and our state has not added components of CRT,” Carly Uthe, a multimedia specialist with the Sioux Falls School District, the largest school district in the state, said in a statement to KELOLAND News.

Others define CRT as a scholarly look at systematic racism that started nearly 40 years ago and has ties to those who study and practice law and academic scholars.

Education Week, independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan news source., said “Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”

The American Bar Association said in January of 2021 that CRT “exposes the ways that racism is often cloaked in terminology regarding “mainstream,” “normal,” or “traditional” values or “neutral” policies, principles, or practices.”

“CRT is not a diversity and inclusion “training” but a practice of interrogating the role of race and racism in society that emerged in the legal academy and spread to other fields of scholarship,” the American Bar Association said.

The Purdue University Writing Lab describes CRT scholarship as this: “CRT scholars attempt to understand how victims of systemic racism are affected by cultural perceptions of race and how they are able to represent themselves to counter prejudice.”

“CRT scholarship also emphasizes the importance of finding a way for diverse individuals to share their experiences. However, CRT scholars do not only locate an individual’s identity and experience of the world in his or her racial identifications, but also their membership to a specific class, gender, nation, sexual orientation, etc,” Purdue University said.

Overturf said CRT seeks to divide people on terms of race, sex and other factors.

Overturf said every grant in history and civics is tied to CRT and teachings from the 1619 Project and Ibram Kendi.

The 1619 Project and Kendi have sparked controversary among scholars and historians and among politicians and the public.

The New York Times and the New York Times magazine in 2019 completed a project to examine slavery and its impact reaching to today’s society. The project was called the 1619 Project.

Kendi is the director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research.

The April 19 announcement about the federal grant application openings for history and civics grants specifically cites the 1619 Project and Kendi.

“American History and Civics Education programs can play an important role in this critical effort by supporting teaching and learning that reflects the breadth and depth of our Nation’s diverse history and the vital role of diversity in our Nation’s democracy,” the April 19 issue of the Federal Register said. ” For example, there is growing acknowledgement of the importance of including, in the teaching and learning of our country’s history, both the consequences of slavery, and the significant contributions of Black Americans to our society. This acknowledgement is reflected, for example, in the New York Times’ landmark “1619 Project” and in the resources of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History.”

And this reference to Kendi: “As the scholar Ibram X. Kendi has expressed, “[a]n antiracist idea is any idea that suggests the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences—that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group. Antiracist ideas argue that racist policies are the cause of racial inequities.” 

After a comment period that ended in May, those specific references were not included in a July 19 announcement in the Federal Register.

Even if those references are removed, it’s clear the grants are tied to CRT, Overturf said.

The state’s standard board is working on revisions to South Dakota state history and civics standards. Noem said in the news release that revisions will be consistent with the civics initiative proposed by her and passed by the Legislature. 

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