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Social studies standards proposal receives nearly 1,000 public comments

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Proposed social studies standards have led to heated debate over the direction of education in South Dakota.

That debate took center stage Monday in Sioux Falls at the second public input hearing for the embattled proposal.

Shannon Malone with the South Dakota Department of Education said the state has received close to 1,000 public comments on the standards. Most of those are opposed to the proposal.

“In total, comments from proponents is 103, comments from opponents is 828, neutral comments 37, and 968 is the total.”

Supporters argue changes to the curriculum are needed. State Sen. Maggie Sutton spoke in support of the proposed standards.

“Student learning does need to be measured, and governed by tried and true concepts, including respect, civility, and personal accountability," Sutton said. "We need to reenforce that students are not only responsible for what they know, but also what they do and what they fail to do. We need to up the standards.”

Opponents argue the standards aren’t age appropriate and focus too much on memorization.

Brian Wagner, a tribal education director for the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Sioux Tribes, said South Dakota tribes unanimously oppose the current proposal.

“Native Americans are missing for great spans of time as if Native Americans didn’t and don’t exist," Wagner said. "Smallpox is repeatedly mentioned as one of the only notable occurrences of Native history. Native American religion is not mentioned, nor was the passage of the Native American Religion Act in 1978. Native American symbols are missing including the Native American Flag Song, tribal flags, and Native American Day which South Dakota was one of the first states to recognize.”

The public will have two more opportunities to speak on the proposed standards with dates for meetings in Rapid City and Pierre to be announced.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.