Social Studies Standards – I Said What I Said

During the March 6th Rapid City Council meeting, a council member presented a resolution to oppose the newly proposed social studies standards for the K-12 public school system. The standards are being proposed through the governor’s administration.

A City Council resolution in this matter is merely a statement expressing the City Council’s position on an issue.  It’s not law; it carries no procedural or policy weight.

After several public comments asking for the resolution to be passed, and after roughly half the city council making comments, the council deadlocked on the issue, with a 5 to 5 tie. In this case, the mayor becomes the tiebreaker and I voted to pass the resolution. Prior to doing so, I made a five-minute speech, which has earned me some hate mail. One of them is below:

Degenerate scum? I beg to differ. Everything else? I also beg to differ. No facts here, just hate.

The proposed social studies curriculum standards should be rejected. The standards are not realistic. They are based on political idealism as opposed to the science and practice of educating young human beings.

It should be noted that the current social studies standards are a product of the South Dakota Social Studies Content Standards Revision Committee of 2014.  That committee consisted of 35 individuals, 31 of which were educators. In other words, 88.5% of the committee were educators.

The Social Studies Standards Revision Commission, responsible for the proposed standards, consists of 16 individuals, only 4 of which are current or retired educators. In other words, 25% of this commission are educators.

Below is just one example of the proposed history standards for a first-grade student- a six or seven-year-old human being:

You can view the proposed standards here. I dare you read the standards in their entirety.

Although the standards seem to me to be ridiculous from an academic standpoint, they do not have the endorsement of the people who are actually trained how to teach your children.

But there is even a dumber part to this whole story, which is of course, that social studies are not a part of the standardized testing. This means, there will be no accurate measure that the standards are being implemented or if they are being absorbed by the student. So what’s the point of it all?  Political gamesmanship is my best guess, but you are entitled to your own opinion.

As a Republican and as a public servant of 40 years, it appears a main emphasis within the proposed social studies standards has to do with protecting America from liberals. The weapons being used in this political war are teachers and students. Looking to politically suitable advisors rather than certified and experienced educators is folly and there is evidence this is counterproductive to Conservative Republican values.

During World War II, there was a study of 5.2 million draftees. It was determined that 36% of the draftees were unfit for military service and were therefore rejected. In a later study, it was learned that many of the rejected draftees had suffered from ailments that were brought on by malnutrition. If you think about it, the draftees were toddlers or grade school kids when the Depression started.

In 1945, President Truman started the school lunch program, as a result of the draftee study. So, pay attention to this: the government identified the problem and implemented a solution.

In a 2009 report, it was determined that 75% of Americans aged 17 to 24 we’re unfit for military service. More recently that number is reported to be 77%, but discussing this with Armed Forces leaders, they suggest it is now 80%.

Put another way, of the 36 million Americans between 17 and 24, 28 million of them couldn’t serve if they wanted to. The primary reasons? NOT Malnutrition. Obesity, poor education such as basic math and reading skills, and mental and physical conditions that would prevent them from serving.  The military branches are drastically short of their recruiting goals.

This is fast becoming a national security issue.

A group of 90 former generals, admirals, other officers and senior enlisted personnel, agree that early childhood education is the answer.  So again, the government has identified a problem, but where is the solution?  Lost in the political war that rages on in this country, that’s where.

South Dakota is one of just a few states that will not commit to early childhood education programming, even though there is ample funding for it. Ironically, people of the same political persuasion that support a strong military do not support early childhood education or other programs that will keep America’s kids healthy and smart and able to serve. If South Dakota is so concerned with our kid’s educations, why not start with three-year-olds? There’s a lack of understanding that may be due to hyper-political rhetoric resulting in plugged ears and closed minds.

This too, divides us.

The division of America will not make us stronger. It will only make us weaker and make no mistake: it will please our foreign enemies. Extreme right-wing and extreme left-wing politicians are doing everything within their power to create two Americas: The Un-united States.

And I assume most folks are going to sit by and watch it happen. Some people will throw their hands up and refuse to vote because of perceived disenfranchisement, while some will think of the division as progress. In the end, we all lose.

I currently serve as the mayor in a non-partisan government organization. The non-partisan feature is the only thing that appealed to me when I made the decision to run for office. The problems in our communities will never be solved only from the Republican or Democrat handbook. Problem-solving requires ingenuity, flexibility and cooperation.

Causing problems on the other hand, requires nothing other than ignorance.

Can We Agree Facts Matter?

Our communities are divided: politics, gender, capitalism, socialism, and the list goes on. One major cause is the unwillingness of people to seek out facts.

Click here to check out the editorial I wrote for today’s Rapid City Journal. The subject of the editorial is only one of many false narratives floating around City Hall today.

This division will continue as long as facts are drowned out by rumors and innuendo in public forums.