The Senate Education Committee recently approved a bill that would suspend for two years the further development and implementation of Gov. Walz’s controversial new K-12 social studies standards. The proposed changes have drawn criticism for advancing a non-academic political agenda at the expense of landmark historical events such as the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I and II, and the Holocaust, or important historical figures like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.
“Fundamental topics in school are fundamental for a reason. It is important to teach both the good and the bad of historical events, not suppress certain historical events to teach a political viewpoint. Schools should teach students skills, knowledge, and understanding to become successful adults,” Senator Andrew Mathews (R-Princeton) remarked. “Critical thinking is absolutely vital to teach our children. Indoctrinating them with biased activism is not the school’s proper role.”
The first draft of the proposed standards omitted several major historical events, robbing students of basic knowledge and their shared cultural heritage. Rather, the draft seems determined to divide Minnesotans and Americans into group identities that are at odds with each other, and to emphasize mistakes and failings, not successes, on the long and sometimes difficult road to “liberty and justice for all.”
Under current law, the Minnesota Department of Educations is authorized to “review” and to “revise” state social studies standards on a regular cycle. But the law was only intended for necessary corrections and updates, not for a governor to radically change curriculum for every public school student in the state.
“The Governor won’t even reopen our schools for in-person learning, but he wants to force a radical, biased, and harmful rewrite our students’ curriculum?” Said Senator Mathews. “We need to put this aside right now until a commonsense proposal comes forward.”
While benchmarks for several major historical events were omitted from the first draft of the proposed standards, the draft does include new and revised benchmarks tailored to social justice and equity, including the following:
• Explain how systemic inequity has been a barrier to accessing credit
• Learn to recognize unfairness, stereotypes, and bias on the individual level (e.g., biased speech) and injustice at the institutional or systemic level (e.g. discrimination)
• Describe the tactics used by the United States government to claim indigenous and Mexican land, including but not limited to an analysis of the ideology of Manifest Destiny and its relationship to whiteness, Christianity, and capitalism
• Define freedom and democracy, and examine how different groups have been included or excluded from the ideals over American history
• Develop a respectful awareness about how ideas and norms about gender have changed over time, and how members of the LGBTQ+ community have responded to persecution or marginalization by building coalitions in order to promote gender equality/equity
The Minnesota Department of Educations is required to revise state social studies standards every ten years.