South Dakota’s Department of Education has been working to overhaul social studies standards free of political agenda.
South Dakota’s Department of Education has been working to fulfill Governor Kristi Noem’s promise to overhaul social studies lessons. A task force was appointed and has now released its proposed guidelines which focus on facts, understanding, and patriotism. These new social studies standards have been through many changes, but include input from various community leaders working on the task force.
Gov. Noem specifically picked the members of this group in order to create a series of well-rounded social studies standards. This includes members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the director of the South Dakota Catholic Conference, State Director of Indian Education, and various teachers, principals, and lawmakers. The workforce began with 40 members but has been cut down to 15 for the new proposal.
The main point of these new social studies standards is to teach students about verified content using specific historical maps, research, documents, and other authentic materials. Giving children a grounded sense of the past in order to help them relate to their neighbors and accept responsibility for their role in the future is another emphasis. Teaching social studies topics with standard lessons free of political bias or an activist’s perspective, while also fostering a love of the country without ignoring its faults, are also important components of this proposal.
The new social studies standards also come with a “Dear Teacher” letter. This directly reaches out to educators to praise their work and encourage a successful launch of the new lesson plans. Within the letter, the commission commits to offering “meaningful content,” a clear order of curriculum material, as well as “straightforward language” to ensure that teachers are able to help students succeed.
There are 10 main principles to ensure that high-quality lessons are offered through the new social studies standards. These cannot impose specific textbooks but do offer the ability to review each curriculum material at the local level. Standards must be presented in a clear, chronological order that helps students understand the timeline of the past. Equal access to learning must be given to students, and they should be instructed to display what they’ve learned through common means like papers, speeches, assignments, and tests.
Each lesson is to “spiral” as children progress. Meaning they will start with basic social studies standards and then grow their knowledge from there. Students should be allowed and encouraged to ask questions. Teachers should use these new guidelines to involve children in grasping the material instead of just memorizing it, and lastly, debating politics and involving activism in lessons is not allowed.
These new social studies standards have taken some time to evolve to this stage. For over a year workforce members have changed as have their recommendations, but now the group has formed clear concise teaching guidelines that many families, schools, and leaders can agree on. Whether further adjustments will be needed to institute these guidelines is uncertain. For now, the main goal is to ensure that American students are taught unbiased historical facts in order to fully understand and appreciate their country.