New Minnesota House Republican Caucus Raises Concerns About New K-12 Standards in Social Studies

Boy sitting in a library, reading a book


Minnesota’s New House Republican Caucus raised concerns about the Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) newly released draft of their K-12 Academic Standards about social studies. They took issue with the curriculum outlined under the social studies section titled “Ethnic Studies.”

One statement, categorized under the heading “resistance,” says that students will “organize with others to engage in activities that could further the rights and dignity of all.” According to the proposed academic standards, “The student will describe how individuals and communities have fought for freedom and liberation against systemic and coordinated exercises of power locally and globally, identify strategies or times that have resulted in lasting change.”

“Which ‘systemic and coordinated exercises of power’ will be discussed? Does identifying strategies to ‘organize with others to engage in activities’ mean social and political protests taking place during school hours?” The New House Republican Caucus asked in a Facebook post.

Another category under Ethnic Studies, titled “identity,” says that students will “analyze the ways power and language construct the social identities of race, religion, geography, ethnicity, and gender.”

The standard continues, “The student will apply understandings to one’s own social identities and other groups living in Minnesota, centering on stories and histories that have been marginalized, erased, or ignored.”

The caucus asked, “Why are we focusing on social identities of race, religion, geography, ethnicity and gender? Aren’t we supposed to be judged by the content of our character?”

A final section within the Ethnic Studies, called “ways of knowing and methodologies,” shared that students will “use ethnic and Indigenous studies methods and sources” in order to “understand the roots of contemporary systems of oppression and apply lessons from the past in order to eliminate historical and contemporary injustices.”

The caucus also had concerns about that section, asking, “What exactly are ‘ethnic and Indigenous studies methods?” Will “contemporary systems of oppression’ include child slave labor used to obtain cobalt for electric car batteries in the name of climate change?”

The New House Republican Caucus encouraged people to “make your voice heard for the sake of your children” if the language in the standards was concerning.

The Academic Standards on Social Studies are open for public input and comment until January 14, 2022 at 4:30 p.m. CST. According to the MDE, “Comments must be submitted on the Office of Administrative Hearings e-comments website.”

Opinions are split within the public comments that are available on the Social Studies K-12 Academic Standards draft, with some community members in support of the draft, and others speaking vehemently against it.

Steve Boyd posted his response saying that to him, it feels as if they consulted “activists, not educators” to write the standards. Boyd said, “These standards are unacceptable on so many levels. They appear to be constructed by activists, not educators. It is absurd that you have 5 pages of standards for social studies and the Constitution is not mentioned once, there is no mention of the founding, there is no mention of the Civil War, World War I or World War II.”

Shannon Watrin expounded on Boyd’s comments, saying, “While Democracy is listed, this is historically incorrect, we are not a Democracy but a Republic, there is a difference. The principles and truths of the Constitution and the Republic that we were founded should be a guiding light in civics/government and history studies. It is also noted that the standards are vague when it comes to core principles such as the constitution, however, when it comes to activist principles like ethnic studies, environmentalism and diversity, it [is] very specific and almost prescriptive.”

Adi Penugonda, a Minnesota high school teacher, disagreed, saying, “The new Ethnic Studies strand will allow students to learn about the dark parts of American history and gain the skills to think critically about power, inequality, and justice. We must adopt these standards.”

Another comment in support of the standards said, “I fully support these new standards for social studies- especially the comprehensive approach (through the perspectives of different groups) and also the addressing of climate change. All instrumental in preparing our kids for college and life beyond their public education.”

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Hayley Feland is a reporter with The Minnesota Sun and The Wisconsin Daily Star | Star News Network. Follow Hayley on Twitter or like her Facebook page. Send news tips to [email protected].

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