Governor Kristi Noem to relaunch social studies standards that better reflect state’s values

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has ordered the state’s education department to rework a proposed social studies curriculum and to reject her administration’s previous submissions while also changing how the new standards are devised.

The Republican governor’s announcement on Friday came a week after she said that revising the standards would be delayed for about a year. In a statement to Fox News, Noem’s office said that the state is ending its ties to Beth Ratway and the C3 framework, “both controversial influences that raised concerns about left-wing content later surfacing in schools,” the network reported.

“I have asked the Department of Education to restart the process from the beginning,” said Noem in a Friday press release. “I want to ensure we propose standards that accurately reflect the values of South Dakota.”

She added: “Our kids deserve to learn both America’s and South Dakota’s true and honest history, taught in a balanced context that doesn’t pit our children against each other on the basis of race, sex, or background. More work needs to be done to get this right, and we are committed to seeing that process through.”

But the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Ratway’s employer, said in a statement that the organization was not aware that its contract with the South Dakota Department of Education had been altered while going on to defend its ability to craft “non-partisan” materials.

“AIR is a non-partisan organization and our team worked collaboratively with state officials on the revision of the social studies standards and honored the parameters that were laid out by the South Dakota Department of Education at the beginning of this project,” the organization said, according to Fox News.

“As a non-partisan organization, our experts operate under the highest standards of professionalism, and any suggestion counter to this is completely without merit,” the statement continued.

Nevertheless, Noem’s announcement came as she took heat from both sides of the political aisle over the curriculum under development, as Native Americans voiced displeasure at materials that were removed at the behest of conservatives.

The governor appears to have made her decision after being warned by Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who wrote at National Review that unless “Noem throws out the current, hopelessly compromised draft social-studies standards, replaces the state education bureaucrats responsible for this fiasco, and puts thoughtful conservatives in charge of the standards revision process, South Dakota’s schools are poised to become playthings of the Left.”

He also highlighted a video on social justice by Ratway, which he said has since been taken down from YouTube. Given to Fox News by Kurtz, “the PowerPoint employs plenty of language reminiscent of controversial equity training seen throughout the U.S.,” the network reported.

Under “Connecting Social Justice and Social Studies,” for instance, Ratway’s slide says: “We define social justice education as the pedagogical practice of guiding students toward critically discussing, examining, and actively exploring the reasons behind social inequalities and how unjust institutional practices maintain and reproduce power and privilege that have a direct impact on students’ lives.”

In addition, Ratway quotes Paulo Freire, who is known for his “critical pedagogy” advocacy that has been blasted by anti-critical race theory critics including James Lindsey, Fox News reported.

Ratway also co-chaired a conference in 2020 called Advancing Social Justice, where Nikole Hannah-Jones, founder of the controversial “1619 Project,” spoke.

In her Friday press release, Noem pledged to “create a new workgroup of stakeholders to develop standards.”

“This group will propose new social studies standards, and everyone who has expressed concerns will be a part of the process, including Native Americans,” the release said. “The new proposed standards will be reviewed and adjusted based on input from the public, the DOE, and, ultimately, approved by the Board of Education Standards.

“The DOE will also hire a new facilitator to oversee the workgroup process,” it added. “The DOE will work with the Board of Education Standards to approve a new timeline to ensure the standards are adopted after sufficient time for the workgroup’s action and public input into the process.”

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