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The third draft of the social studies standards is out, and MDE will soon begin the formal rulemaking process that will entrench them in Minnesota’s K-12 classrooms.
The bad news is that — though there have been some tweaks — the standards are the same in all essentials. They are driven by the themes of Critical Race Theory: group identity based on race; life as a power struggle between oppressors and victims; and American history as a shameful story of domination, marginalization and injustice.
Ideology has replaced the basic factual knowledge students need to be informed citizens.
The good news is that Center of the American Experiment is gearing up for a long-haul fight as the standards wend their way through the rule-making process. That will take 18 months to two years, and will include “multiple opportunities” for public comments and potential changes. There will be a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge before formal adoption.
There are two ways to make your voice heard on the third draft social studies standards.
The first is easy — sign our petition and send a message to the Minnesota Department of Education and the Office of Administrative Hearings. You can sign your name to our prepared text or personalize it with your own thoughts. Click here to sign the petition urging changes to the third draft. The MDE comment period closes on Dec. 14, 2021, and your comments will be sent to both MDE and the Office of Administrative Hearings.
The second way to make your voice heard is to engage directly with the Office of Administrative Hearings through their open comment process. Commenters can join an ongoing discussion Minnesotans are having about the current draft of the standards. You can even attach documents to your comments as you make your argument. The Administrative Law Judge will read all of the comments before making a decision. Click here to create a profile and join the discussion. This comment period closes on Jan. 14, 2022.
The primary vehicle for CRT ideology in the third draft is “Ethnic Studies.” In the second draft, MDE’s drafting committee added this highly politicized “fifth strand” to the four Social Studies content areas named in state law, and MDE has now incorporated it in the final draft. As a result, it appears Minnesota is poised to become one of a handful of states that require the radical Ethnic Studies agenda for all grades.
The first Ethnic Studies standards (Std. 23) teaches that a student’s personal identity is determined by his or her group status:
The second and third standards (Std. 24 and Std. 25) require students to organize to “resist” America’s “systemic” abuse of power against “marginalized,” “oppressed” groups:
How will radical Ethnic Studies standards play out in Minnesota classrooms?
High school students will be required to:
Like earlier drafts, the third draft replaces objective historical knowledge — facts about the key events and figures of the past — with a fixation on “dominant and non-dominant narratives” and “absent voices.” Students will graduate largely ignorant of the events and leaders that shaped America and the world, but primed to view our nation with reflexive suspicion and hostility.
The third draft continues MDE’s reframing of American history as a woeful tale of “colonialism,” slavery, racism and imperialism. For example:
According to MDE, one of its primary goals in the third draft was an increased focus on Native Americans. To say this was accomplished is an understatement.
The draft now reflects a relentless fixation with the topic. In MDE’s words, “The contributions of Minnesota’s American Indian tribes and communities are integrated into each strand and all standards.”
The result is a striking imbalance in the time and attention students will devote to indigenous-related topics, in both Minnesota and U.S. history. Our state’s history has largely been reduced to a focus on the Dakota and Anishinaabe people, generally through a “power and oppression” lens.
Not surprisingly, “loaded” language directs students “what to think,” not “how to think” on Native American topics. For example, students are required to:
The third draft, like earlier drafts, eliminates the most basic facts of world history from the K-12 curriculum.
Overall, the standards give Western Civilization short-shrift — and with it the unique history that produced contemporary democracy — in favor of a vague and largely contentless “global” focus.
MDE’s decision to eliminate basic factual knowledge from the Social Studies curriculum extends to the third draft’s geography standards. Minnesota students will no longer learn the names and location of continents, the Pacific Ocean, the Amazon, the Rocky Mountains, France or India. Instead, they will “describe places and regions, explaining how they are influenced by power structures.” (Std. 14)
For example, in geography class:
Activism and “Resistance”
An exception to the absence of basic factual knowledge in the third draft is the Citizenship strand’s treatment of the American system of government. This may be because state law requires schools to prepare students to pass an exam with questions drawn from the U.S. Citizenship test. The Economics strand also requires some mastery of facts.
Otherwise, the standards’ vision of Social Studies as a narrative of “oppression” seems geared, in large part, toward preparing students for political activism, and what the second Ethnic Studies standard (Std. 24) calls “resistance.”
The third draft’s focus on crime, policing and the juvenile justice system exemplifies this:
This ideologically driven instruction will likely generate fear and resentment in students of some racial/ethnic groups, and convince them that policing and criminality are “racially constructed.”
MDE claims the vision of Social Studies enshrined in the third draft will “rigorously” prepare Minnesota’s young people for college and career. Not likely.
The American Federation of Teachers once defined indoctrination as “the deliberate exclusion or distortion of studies in order to induce belief by irrational means.” This appears to be the true mission of the proposed Social Studies standards.