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SD Holds First Public Hearing in Social Studies Standards Debate

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022   

A South Dakota education panel has kicked off the public-hearing phase in the state's latest effort to update social studies standards. Many perspectives were offered during Monday's meeting, including opposition from teachers.

In August, the state released proposed revisions for teaching history and civics, a year after the process was paused over the last-minute removal of several Native American references. A new but smaller working group drafted this year's plan, led by an official from a conservative college in Michigan.

Andrea Stanoscheck, a teacher at Lincoln Middle School in Yankton, said there was little representation from certified educators.

"The proposed standards committee only had 15 members, three of whom had current teaching certificates; that's 20%," Stanoscheck pointed out. "As you consider these standards, please ask yourself whether South Dakota values its teachers' expertise."

Other teachers said the proposed revisions focus too much on memorization of facts without much room for analysis. Some noted the content does not align with child development and will be too much for younger students to absorb. Supporters, including some parent activists, say there should be a greater emphasis on certain pointed, arguing too many Americans lack basic civics knowledge.

Kelsey Lovseth, an educator at Brookings High School, served on last year's standards review group, and said the public comments they examined expressed a desire for more diverse and streamlined curriculum with greater emphasis on current events. She said it did not happen this time.

"It is evident after extensive and thorough review of these proposed standards before you, that the will of South Dakota people has been ignored," Lovseth contended.

Both Lovseth and Stanoscheck are members of the South Dakota Education Association, which said the proposed standards deny students freedom to learn. State education leaders say despite concerns about the lack of critical thinking, teachers would have the ability to challenge students beyond learning facts.

The Board of Education Standards is expected to hold a handful of other public hearings in the coming months before deciding on the plan.

Disclosure: The South Dakota Education Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Education. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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