South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has signed a candidate pledge to bar “action civics” (mandatory political protests for course credit) and critical race theory (attacks on “whiteness,” “Eurocentrism,” etc.) from South Dakota schools. The pledge is sponsored by “1776 Action,” a new group founded by Adam Waldeck, a former aide to former speaker Newt Gingrich and supported by Gingrich and Ben Carson.
Stanley Kurtz sees the pledge and Noem’s decision to sign it as positive developments in the battle to prevent America’s K-12 students from being indoctrinated in left-wing dogma. Clearly, it is.
Stanley argues, however, that Noem has her work cut out for her if she’s to make good on the pledge. “Even in a deep-dyed red state such as South Dakota, the threats that Noem has just pledged to battle have made shocking progress,” he warns.
What does Noem need to do to fulfill her pledge to block action civics and CRT in South Dakota? First, says Stanley
Noem needs to support legislation that would bar both action civics and CRT from South Dakota’s public K–12 schools. The model legislation I’ve published with the National Association of Scholars would do that, and Texas may soon pass a bill based on that model. Although South Dakota’s 2021 legislative session has ended, Governor Noem could conceivably call a special session to pass such a bill. There is a very good reason why such speedy action may be necessary.
If the disastrous Civics Secures Democracy Act should pass in Congress before South Dakota’s next legislative session convenes, it may be too late to stop both CRT and action civics from taking over the state. Leftist bureaucrats in South Dakota’s Department of Education will apply for the massive state grants funded by that proposed law. Once that happens, although Noem could pull the applications back, she would be under tremendous political pressure not to do so. At stake will be big federal grants for a small state with limited resources. That’s why it’s better to block action civics and CRT now, by state law.
Otherwise, President Biden’s outrageous new rule governing priority for history and civics grants — turbo-charged by a $6 billion federal appropriation and combined with priority criteria in the law itself — will effectively force action civics, CRT, and the 1619 Project even on red states such as South Dakota.
Unless the legislature comes back for a special session this year to address the issue, Governor Noem should prevent federal interference by ordering her Department of Education now to refrain from applying for any federal grants in history or civics until after the 2022 South Dakota legislative session.
There’s more that needs to be done. Stanley points out that South Dakota is already well along the road to crafting new statewide K–12 Social Studies standards — appalling ones. “The current draft of South Dakota Social Studies standards are filled with exercises in leftist action civics, precisely what Governor Noem has pledged to block,” he says.
(Is it surprising that in a state as red as South Dakota, the education bureaucracy is filled with leftists? Only if you haven’t been paying attention.)
To make good on her pledge, therefore, Noem needs to sink the new, leftist South Dakota Social Studies draft standards, filled as they are with action civics and lessons tied to those exercises, and start over. Then, says Stanley, she “needs to turn to respected education experts outside the club of leftists who dominate South Dakota’s Department of Education to craft new standards.”
It’s sobering to think about how much hard work lies ahead if Gov. Noem is to follow through on her pledge. However, the governor should be commended for taking an important first step.