MNGOP leaders want Dayton to veto insufficiently patriotic social studies standards

Reps. Woodard (left) and Daudt don't think the new proposed social studies standards are patriotic enough.
Reps. Woodard (left) and Daudt don't think the new proposed social studies standards are patriotic enough.

Yesterday, the Minnesota Department of Education held a public hearing about new proposed social studies standards that have drawn the ire of the MNGOP's House leadership.

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The standards prompted House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Assistant Minority Leader Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, to send a letter to Gov. Dayton asking him to order the Department of Education to rewrite them. The two legislators say the new standards are unacceptable because they make "virtually no mention of the values of American patriotism."

A John Fonte blog post published Wednesday on the conservative National Review website provides some context. From "New Minnesota Social-Studies Standards: America the Ugly":

Nine years ago a group of history professors from the University of Minnesota sent a letter to the state's education department. They complained that the history/social-studies standards for Minnesota presented American history too positively. The historians wanted early American history described in terms of "conquest," "subjugation," "exploitation," "enslavement," and "genocidal impact." For these academics, the story of America primarily meant slavery for African Americans, genocide for American Indians, subjugation for women, xenophobia for immigrants, and exploitation for poor people.

It looks like the Minnesota academics have finally achieved their goal. This Thursday, December 20, the Minnesota Department of Education will hold a public hearing before approving new standards that emphasize, among other things, "institutional racism." For example History Standard 20 for the period 1870-1920 declares: "The student will understand that as the United States shifted from its agrarian roots into an industrial and global power, the rise of big business, urbanization, and immigration led to institutionalized racism, ethnic and class conflict, and new efforts at reform." [italics added by Fonte]

Less biased standards might suggest that "the student will understand" that the growth of business enterprise, urbanization, and immigration led to greater prosperity for most Americans, including African Americans who moved to large northern cities and Ellis Island newcomers who chose to become Americans. Further, the period 1870 to 1920 witnessed tremendous technological development and inventions for which Americans are famous: including great advances in medicine; the promotion of public health (including a clean water supply and indoor plumbing), the sewing machine, typewriter, phonograph, and electric light bulb.

But, American achievements are downplayed while the overarching theme becomes "institutionalized racism." Of course, this logically means that the major "institutions" of American liberal democracy -- the courts, Congress, the presidency, state and local governments, businesses, churches, civic organizations -- and the entire democratic system and its civil society are racist and therefore, clearly, illegitimate.

The letter authored by Daudt and Woodard accuses the standards of not reflecting "what Minnesotans expect our students to learn and comprehend in the subject areas of history, government and economics."

"Throughout the entire set of civic and history standards there is virtually no mention of the values of American patriotism," they wrote, according to numerous reports. "There is no mention of Osama Bin Laden, the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the global war on terrorism, or even the events of Sept. 11, 2001."

A Pioneer Press report explains the thought process a group of more 40 teachers, administrators, professors, and business leaders invoked while drafting the new standards:

[T]hose who worked on crafting the new standards over the past two years say the benchmarks focus more on higher concepts of learning and critical thinking, which students need for colleges or careers, rather than memorizing a list of names, dates and events, such as those approved in 2004.

"Many teachers and curriculum specialists told us the level of specificity was overwhelming, given the limited amount of time schools have for social studies," said Beth Aune, director of standards at the Minnesota Department of Education.

The standards are a guiding principle for what should be taught. Schools pick out the textbooks, and teachers create the lesson plans.

As of late yesterday afternoon, Dayton hadn't yet offered up any public response to the letter authored by Daudt and Woodard, who will be the MNGOP's leader on the Education Finance Committee this coming legislative session.

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