Public comments on proposed social studies standards will be accepted through Monday

Before the dawn bells, members of the South Dakota Education Association held “walk-ins” at schools in the Sioux Falls area as a forum to discuss proposed social studies standards. This all leads up to the next public hearing on the issue on Monday in Sioux Falls.

The proposed standards for social studies have been fueled by vigorous public debate for months.

Tamra Huffman is an eighth grade social studies teacher in the Harrisburg School District who participated in the walk-in. She said they were successful.

“We chose to do this walk-in in the morning when parents drop off their children just to make them aware of the standards and how we, as educators, feel about those standards,” Huffman said.

Huffman said educators are concerned about the process of writing standards and a lack of input from South Dakota educators.

Stephen Jackson, a professor at the University of Sioux Falls, was a member of the 2021 Social Studies Standards Working Group. That working group’s proposal was ultimately rejected in favor of the current proposal.

Jackson said in SDPB’s “In the Moment” there were concerns about the adequacy of standards by age group.

“Those standards require a lot, a lot of rope memorization, even at a very, very young age,” Jackson said. “I’ll give you an example from first grade. The student explains the importance of the consent of the governed, including the Founders’ argument that a government can only tell the people what to do if the people have a say in who in the government gets to make those decisions, what as called self-government. And of course that’s a really important fundamental concept, but will a five and six year old really be able to understand the true meaning of the consent of the governed?

He said that social studies education is about more than memorizing facts.

“There’s absolutely a middle ground here where we’re going to say, ‘Certain factual information is just important to people,’ and I totally agree with that,” Jackson said. “But these standards take a different approach, and they say, ‘We only want factual memorization.’ I think this is developmentally inappropriate in the way it approaches those standards. It will result in students who lack these vital inquiry skills. That’s a standard in most college classrooms, that’s a standard that most employers require of students who can participate in research.”

The next meeting of the Sioux Falls Educational Standards Committee will be on Monday, November 21 at 9:00 am at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. Residents interested in speaking can register to do so on the Board of Education Standards website.

Two other public commentator meetings will be held in Rapid City and Pierre, dates to be announced.

Interested parties can do so under the following LINK