South Dakota is a politically-red and conservative state, and yet it is having its own problems when it comes to revising the state’s social studies standards. Critics of the proposed revisions claimed that Hillsdale College, a conservative university in Michigan, had undue influence in revising the state’s standards.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who is a potential 2024 presidential candidate, is a vocal supporter of Hillsdale’s conservative education. According to the state newspaper, the Argus Leader, Noem allegedly told Hillsdale President Larry Arnn that she would build a campus for the college in her home state.
As a part of the standards revision process, South Dakota paid former Hillsdale politics professor William Morrisey $200,000 to develop the state’s social studies standards. Much of the standards came from Hillsdale’s “1776 Curriculum,” which emphasizes American exceptionalism and acknowledges the good, bad, and ugly about U.S. history. Hillsdale’s curriculum and lesson plans are a direct counter-argument to the left-wing and oft-debunked 1619 Project, which falsely claims that America was founded on slavery.
There are 15 members of the commission, with three members holding a current South Dakota teaching certification.
Critics worried that Hillsdale’s involvement in the standards development did not cater to South Dakotans’ own sentiments and unnecessarily outsourced it to non-residents. Some also said that the standards do not align with the American Historical Association’s (AHA) recommendations, without acknowledging that the AHA is left-wing.
Noem’s office referred the Argus Leader to Ben Jones, who heads the state’s historical society and was involved in the revisions. Jones defended the commission’s efforts and said, “Frankly, it’s a logical fallacy to say that something is bad because it’s associated with this group that I don’t agree with over this other thing.”
The standards will be discussed in public hearings by the Board of Education Standards, whose members are appointed by Noem.
But South Dakota’s standards fight is not new for conservatives, which have had to endure decades of left-wing control of public education.