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South Dakota is the state of my birth, and I lived there, on and off, about half of my life.  I still have relatives there, so my interest in South Dakota continues.  I’ve followed the career of Governor Kristi Noem, a SD native.  Reporters used to drool over Michelle Obama’s arms.  They’re toothpicks compared to Noem’s, because Noem is a genuine rancher, and built her physique with a lifetime of hard work.  Because Noem is a conservative, governing a solidly red state, there is no media appreciation for her musculature or her natural beauty, and surely nothing but hatred for her politics.

I’ve most recently written about Noem in March of 2021 in Kristi Noem: Political Suicide?  That article expressed my concern about Noem’s failure to sign a bill banning males pretending to be female in SD K-12 and college sports.  Among her less than convincing excuses was the NCAA was threatening dire consequences for any state that did not allow men to beat up on women in women’s sports.

I followed that in May of 2021 with Kristi Noem: The NCAA Caves, which explained the NCAA backed away from it’s threats.  I suspect that was because the NCAA enjoys power and wealth only so long as the states willingly give it.  What almost certainly happened was enough states pushed back the NCAA saw its power and wealth in danger, and suddenly, the wishes of mentally troubled men no longer were a priority.  As far as I can tell, women’s sports in SD remain open to the whims of confused pseudo-men.

D/S/Cs never rest, so another evil stalks the state of my birth, particularly, the school children of South Dakota, and as has happened all too often, Kristi Noem does not seem to recognize the danger.  Consider this article from July 29, via local station KELO:

Gov. Kristi Noem has banned the South Dakota Department of Education from applying for the available $2.1 million grants in history and civics because of her concerns over ties to Critical Race Theory (CRT)

Noem signed an executive order on the ban today.

According to the July 19 Federal Register, the $2.1 million in available grants are geared to higher education institutions “other nonprofit or for-profit organization with demonstrated expertise in the development of evidence-based approaches with the potential to improve the quality of American history, civics and government, or geography learning and teaching.”

Noem has requested a review of policies from the South Dakota Board of Regents to ‘ensure the state’s higher education system remains focused on honest, patriotic education,’ according to a news release from the state.

‘CRT tells us that racism is the DNA of our country,’ Noem’s senior communication advisor Jordan Overturf said.

‘Critical race theory has no place in South Dakota schools. These ideas are un-American. We are ‘one nation, under God, indivisible,’ yet critical race theory seeks to divide us based on inaccurate revisions to our nation’s history,’ Gov. Kristi Noem said in a news release.

There is no immediate concern for South Dakota K-12 Schools, Overturf said.

‘CRT is not taught in South Dakota schools and we want to make sure it’s not,’ Overturf said.

So far so good, or so it would seem…  The West River Eagle.com, on August 11, explains:

Governor Kristi Noem released a statement regarding Critical Race Theory (CRT) on August 5 in response to a four-page report from the South Dakota Board of Regents, the body charged with oversight of higher education in the state.

In its statement, the SD Board of Regents sought to clarify the use of CRT in the state’s institutions of higher education, saying the theory is not ‘a basis for instruction.’ Noem’s office chose to interpret the statement to say the Board of Regents is ‘restricting the teaching of Critical Race Theory at state colleges and universities.’

Critical Race Theory is a framework of thought sometimes used in academic settings to interrogate the role of race in the interpretation of history, particularly in the law. It tries to inject the lived experience of minorities into the historical record.

Christopher Vondracek reported in the Mitchell Republic that State Sen. Reynold Nesiba, a Sioux Falls Democrat and economics professor at Augustana University, called the terminology used by Noem ‘purposely vague,’ and pointed out that neither the statement from her office nor from the Board of Regents provided guidance for use of ‘particular articles, texts, or authors’ with the CRT label.

‘What is banned and what is not?’ asked Nesiba. ‘Still, this has a chilling effect on any education related to race and is a major governmental overreach by the governor.’ He called the tactics a political ‘diversion.’

In other words, if Noem intended to ban CRT in higher education, she said the right-ish words, but didn’t accomplish what she may or may not have intended.  She’s going to have to, none too gently, have a “come to Jesus” moment with South Dakota college teachers and administrators.  Is she up to it?  By all means, take the links to the local outlet articles and see for yourselves, gentle readers.  But the real battleground is in K-12 education, and Stanley Kurtz, one of the most important voices against racist propaganda in our schools, explains at National Review.com.

Hard-left activists have taken over the writing of K-12 history and civics standards in ruby-red South Dakota. Governor Kristi Noem’s administration has belatedly attempted to set things right, but the troubled standards are nowhere near fixed. While public attention has been drawn to the controversy, the press has done little to explain what is actually in the new social-studies standards or how the process ran off the rails. The resignation of two ‘workgroup’ members from the committee drafting the new standards shortly before the release of the final report has also spurred public interest. The picture that emerges from an examination of public documents, as well as conversations with committee members, is disturbing.

credit: huronplainsman.co,

Hmmm.  So Gov. Noem, once again, is saying the more or less right things, but getting squishy when it comes to actual results?

While Noem deserves credit for an important move to curb politicization of South Dakota classrooms (more on that below), she bears significant responsibility for the current mess. Noem has positioned herself nationally as a tough-minded conservative, yet she’s handed control of South Dakota’s Department of Education to squishy establishment types only too happy to allow leftist professors, bureaucrats, and their hand-selected teachers to run the show. That said, the real bad actors in this story are at the South Dakota Department of Education, which has blatantly defied the governor’s wishes.

Here’s the bottom line. Unless Noem throws out the current, hopelessly compromised draft social-studies standards, replaces the state education bureaucrats responsible for this fiasco, and puts thoughtful conservatives in charge of the standards revision process, South Dakota’s schools are poised to become playthings of the Left.

This past May, I praised Governor Noem for being the first politician to sign the candidate/office holder pledge designed by the group “1776 Action.” That pledge commits Noem to keeping critical race theory (CRT) and action civics (in practice, leftist political activism for course credit) out of South Dakota’s schools. While I lauded Noem’s move in May, I also warned that fulfilling her pledge would require heavy lifting. Like most states, South Dakota’s education bureaucracy is controlled by woke leftists. At the very moment Noem was promising to keep action civics and CRT out of South Dakota’s schools, her Department of Education was revising state standards to match the approach favored by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), a leftist group that supports both action civics and CRT. To make her pledge count as more than empty talk, I said, Noem would need to call a halt to South Dakota’s current standards revision process and put new people in charge — appointees who actually believe in her pledge.

And did Noem back up her words with action?

Beth Ratway
credit: researchgate.net

Sad to say, Noem did not follow through. Instead, she allowed the existing standards revision process to continue on a track that placed it in direct opposition to the spirit and substance of her pledge. Just a couple of weeks after Noem’s pledge, Melinda Johnson, the social-studies specialist at the South Dakota Department of Education, signed a contract with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) for the services of a consultant who would facilitate revisions to the state’s social-studies standards. Beth Ratway, the consultant/facilitator/team leader provided by AIR, is a leading advocate of action civics and a proponent of teaching for ‘social justice’ (in practice, leftist politics). Once Ratway was hired to guide South Dakota’s social-studies revisions, the behind-the-scenes reality of Noem’s education policy could not have been more different from its public face.

Perhaps Kurtz is just a bomb-throwing insurrectionist, domestic terrorist, white supremacist, racist hater who wants South Dakota children to think America a good, non-racist nation?  A better question might be, just who is Beth Ratway anyway?

Ratway co-chaired the 2020 Advancing Social Justice Conference for NCSS and received a special commendation from the group for her efforts. Nikole Hannah-Jones, of the 1619 Project, was a featured speaker at Ratway’s conference, and plenty of the conference panels pushed for action civics and CRT. Ratway is also affiliated with the Educating for American Democracy (EAD) initiative, a left-dominated coalition dedicated to pushing action civics on America’s schools. EAD has been roundly criticized by conservatives like Mark Bauerlein, Jonathan Butcher, John Fonte, Joy Pullmann, Peter Wood, Scott Yenor (and me). So, the key facilitator of South Dakota’s social-studies standards revision process is an advocate of everything Noem has pledged to oppose.

That doesn’t sound so good.  Kurtz’s article provides a link to a Ratway video, but Ratway obviously doesn’t want anyone that might not appreciate what she advocates for American children to see that video without her permission.  Here’s what the link produces:

You can see Ratway at work in an extraordinary video where she provides teachers with strategies for bringing ‘social justice’ training into their classrooms, even when parents object. Ratway’s seminar in misdirection validates long-standing conservative concerns that bland-sounding language built into state education standards is cleverly designed to enable leftist political indoctrination. Grassroots conservatives get called conspiracy theorists for raising these concerns, but Ratway’s video is essentially a ‘how to’ lesson for leftist educators looking to defuse legitimate parental concerns about indoctrination. The trick Ratway gives them is to reference ambiguous phrases from state standards as a defense.

In recent years, the states have drawn up “standards” of varying lengths in all school disciplines.  Here’s an example from the South Dakota Social Studies standards, adopted in 2015 and still in use (click on the image to enlarge):

Properly written, standards merely reflect what professional, non-political teachers have always taught.  They’re merely a guide for parents, students and new teachers.  Manipulated, they allow for, even mandate, Marxist indoctrination.  As always, the devil is in the details, or the language, and D/S/Cs are expert at both:

Drawing on language from the United Nations, Ratway defines ‘social justice’ as ‘fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth.’ Invoking authors like the Marxist educator Paulo Freire (an ed-school favorite), she adds material on ‘questioning institutional knowledge’ so as not to ‘reproduce power and privilege.’ Ratway tells the teachers watching her seminar to push these ideas indirectly, by framing them as questions like, ‘What would a historian ask?’ She also suggests pushing social justice under the guise of exploring ‘multiple perspectives.’ Yet Ratway’s goal is very evidently not a balanced and open exploration of ‘multiple perspectives.’ On the contrary, she aims to promote a broadly leftist political vision under the decidedly misleading guise of open-mindedness.

What is she talking about?  Not reproducing “power and privilege” is woke speak for racist suppression of White people in particular, capitalism in general, and our Republican form of government—the Constitution itself.  Those that have been following such issues know teachers across America first denied they were teaching CRT at all, and have only recently begun to admit it, though most are still following Ratway’s deceptive, stealth approach.  They know most Americans don’t want their children subjected to racist, Marxist indoctrination.

Ratway tells teachers that when parents challenge politicization, they should say that they have no choice but to teach this way because it’s “in the standards.” Indeed, the standards Ratway favors are full of seemingly neutral phrases like, “use multiple perspectives” and “think like a historian,” designed to be used as pretexts for leftist politics.

By all means, take the link and read the whole article.  Kurtz explains the entire process, supposedly done by more than 40 committee members from around the state, some of them teachers, was rigged from the start.  For experienced teachers, that’s a familiar, “same old, same old” refrain.  State educrats commonly “involve” local educators, but in the end, ignore them—unless of course they’re also woke—and do what they want anyway.  They stick their names on the final result to make it appear legitimate.  It’s all part of their standard stealth approach.  An example:

In short, a couple of weeks after Governor Noem promised to fight these very same educational approaches, and well before the standards writing committee even had a chance to go to work, South Dakota’s Department of Education signed a contract effectively committing the state to violating the governor’s pledge, and agreed to pay nearly a quarter-million dollars to do so.

Screw the Governor!  What the hell does she know?  She’s only a rancher, not an enlightened educrat!  Two conservative—Normal American—members of the committee resigned, and though the Committee tried to keep it quiet, they went public with the truth about what was happening.  Again, take the link and see for yourself.  At the moment, Gov. Noem has directed the standards be delayed so the public can have a greater opportunity to comment on them.  Kurtz again:

The cynical interpretation of all this is that Noem cares more about splashy public promises than about governing. Although she had good reason to know that her Department of Education was in league with the leftist education establishment, Noem did nothing to enforce her public pledge until word of the resignations leaked. By that point, it was too late for more than cosmetic changes to the standards. We got superficial damage control instead.

The more charitable interpretation is that Noem could reasonably have expected her Department of Education to adhere to her public pledge. In this view, the lion’s share of blame falls on openly defiant educators and bureaucrats, and on the appointees at the Department of Education who enabled them.

Final Thoughts:

If Kristi Noem is to have any hope of national political office, she needs to get back on the Constitutional horse and protect South Dakota’s children from woke, anti-American indoctrination.  Instead of merely delaying the implementation of socialist/communist propaganda, instead of allowing “educators” to break the law and lie about it to parents, she needs to take simple, direct action:

1) Have a sit down chat with the education educrats and confront them with the reality of Ratway and what she is teaching.  Should they try to defend it, fire them then and there.

2) Establish absolutely clear prohibitions on teaching CRT or any sort of political indoctrination, including clear standards for firing anyone violating those prohibitions.

3) I’d recommend she fire the educrats, one and all, but failing that, give them one more chance to do things properly and non-politically.

4) Should they step over the line a millimeter, immediately fire them.

5) Appoint monitors in every School District to randomly view actual teaching, and fire any violators and revoke their teaching credentials.

Remember, these people believe they have a higher, more moral, calling than merely teaching children a professional, factual, non-political curriculum.  Because they have such an exalted calling, they are more than justified in lying to parents specifically and the public in general about what they’re doing to their children.  There is a word for this: evil.

Kristi Noem has a choice: stand up for professional, American education, for the Constitution and equality rather than equity, or embrace the evil she has, through negligence or design, allowed to threaten South Dakota’s children.  Any bets, gentle readers?