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Public comments on proposed social studies standards accepted until Monday


Before morning bells, members of the South Dakota Education Association hosted “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 subject Monday in Sioux Falls.

The proposed social studies standards have been met by robust public discussion 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 were dropping off their children, just to let them be aware of the standards and how we as educators feel about those standards,” Huffman said.

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

University of Sioux Falls professor Stephen Jackson was a member of the 2021 social studies standards workgroup. That workgroup’s proposal was ultimately rejected in favor of the current proposal.

Jackson said on SDPB’s “In the Moment” there are concerns about the appropriateness of standards by age group.

“These standards are requiring lots and lots of rope memorization even at a very very young age," Jackson said. "I’ll give you an example from grade one. The student explains the meaning of the consent of the governed including the founders' argument that a government can only tell people what to do if people have a say over who in the government gets to make those decisions, which is called self-government. And that’s a really important foundational concept, obviously, but is a five- and six-year-old going to be able to really understand the true meaning of the consent of the governed?”

He said there is more to social studies education than memorizing facts.

“There’s absolutely a middle ground here where we’re going to say, ‘certain factual information is just vital for people to know’, and I totally agree with that," Jackson said. "But these standards go another route, and they say, ‘we only want factual memorization as part of this.’ I think that’s developmentally inappropriate in the way it’s approaching these standards. It’s going to lead to students who don’t have these skills of inquiry that are vital. That’s a standard in most college classrooms, that’s a standard that most employers want students that can engage in inquiry.”

The next board of education standards meeting in Sioux Falls will be held at 9:00 a.m. Monday, Nov. 21 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. Residents interested in speaking can sign up to do so at the board of education standards website.

Two more public comment meetings will be held in Rapid City and Pierre with dates to be announced.

Those interested in submitting public can do so at the following LINK

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture