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Legislative update

Friday, August 13, 2021

Dear Neighbor, Our children’s educational interests are best served when their families are involved in the decision-making process. With that in mind, I highly encourage area residents to make their thoughts known regarding new social studies standards that soon will be established. Here is more about this topic and how to make your voice be heard before a 4 p.m. Monday deadline to comment and/or participate in a survey.The Minnesota Department of Education is required to review and revise standards and benchmarks for social studies every 10 years. A committee of 36 is currently engaged in that process.The first draft of the standards was released in December of last year. It appeared to be quite politically charged, with a heavy focus on identity politics.The second draft was released July 30 and it, too, has raised concern by continuing to put political agendas ahead of academics. For example, one benchmark instructs our children to “Examine the benefits and consequences of power and privilege on issues associated with poverty, income, and the accumulation of wealth.”Social studies standards should focus on giving students a well-rounded education instead of indoctrinating them and portraying a negative view of America. It goes without saying our nation is not perfect, but the standards seemingly diminish any glimmer of American exceptionalism or greatness.Our internal struggles with race are emphasized in the standards but advancing freedom around the world and defeating fascism and imperialism are largely ignored. In fact, there are no references anywhere in the standards to key historical figures like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and no direction on how to examine key historical figures even as some with extreme views attempt to “cancel” even our country's greatest Presidents and leaders.There also are no references to the Emancipation Proclamation, but there are four references to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. And capitalism and communism are presented as equal economic ideas to be examined, without any context of the atrocities committed under communist regimes.Another area of concern is that current politics is placed into the benchmarks, including, “Participate in a vote by identifying the rules that keep the voting process fair, demonstrating voting skills, accepting the results of the vote and explaining why voting is important.” The “accepting the results of an election” part is a new concept added to the second draft’s benchmarks and raises red flags. Overall, there have been some improvements since the first draft, including less on identity politics and whiteness. Critical Race Theory – the perception that the basis of our culture and history is steeped in race and racism – is not included by name but components remain in less-blatant forms. This would potentially create an education system that ignores our history, creates guilt and shame in white students – all while failing to teach crucial subjects and denigrating the greatness of America. The whole history – the whole truth, blemishes and all – is part of our national story and it must be taught with subject matter taking precedent over ideology.A third, and final draft of the standards soon will be established and your participation in a survey regarding the second draft could be helpful to the finished product.This website includes links to the full second draft, an FAQ page and the aforementioned survey. One important note: After you have finished answering the survey questions, text in a bar prompts you to choose the “Done” button below. But, at last check, there was no “Done” button provided. Instead, just click on the bar which tells you to click the “Done” button. You may have to repeat this process twice. Again, you have until 4 p.m. Aug. 16 to participate in the survey. I also encourage people to relay their thoughts on this subject to the Minnesota Department of Education by emailing mde.commissioner@state.mn.us. The Legislature does not have a formal hand in the process of setting these standards and will not be presented an opportunity to vote on them. It is up to parents and families to advocate for our children on this issue and I encourage people in our area to step up to the challenge.Sincerely, Lisa


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