The second draft of the Department of Education’s social studies academic standards has been released and some of the content is rather concerning.

These standards that are being developed will govern the lessons in social studies, civics, history, and government classes Minnesota children will receive for the next decade. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with what the state is proposing and provide comments before a final draft is established this fall for implementation in coming years.

The first draft of the standards was released in December of 2020. It read like a political statement focused on identity politics and decentering “whiteness” while portraying racism and slavery as uniquely European or American concepts.

The second draft was released July 30 and it, too, is rather concerning. While the Department of Education indicates critical race theory is not included in any current or proposed Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards, ethnic studies has been added as one of five major educational strands – right alongside legally required lessons on citizenship and government, economics, geography, and U.S and world history.

This comes across as a blatant attempt to replace academic rigor with a political agenda. The new set of standards sets schools on a course to train students to be social justice warriors with a call to action to work toward an “equitable future” without clarifying or defining what is considered equitable.

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“Critical race theory” may not be mentioned by name in the latest draft, but there are aspects of the standards draft which seem to align with its perceived legal codification of racism in America. One benchmark is to “Examine the benefits and consequences of power and privilege on issues associated with poverty, income, and the accumulation of wealth.”

The overall theme of the standards is to diminish any hint of American greatness or exceptionality, and thus the role of America as a force for liberation and freedom are excluded in favor of a narrative framing America as an imperial or exploitive nation.

Students are asked to analyze key events, persons, or institutions without any clarity on the essential knowledge or skills the student is expected to actually know and understand.

Other considerations on the draft standards include:

  • There are no references to key figures including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, providing no direction on how teachers should treat key figures being brought under greater scrutiny by radical viewpoints.
  • There is no mention of the Emancipation Proclamation in reviewing the history of slavery, but the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights is referenced four times.
  • Free-market (capitalism) and command (communism) economies are presented as simply different ways to accomplish the same goal, lacking any content or context on the destructive nature of communism and authoritarian socialism.
  • Students are to examine the internal struggle for liberation without any reference to our nation’s role in advancing liberty and freedom around the world and defeating fascism and imperialism. There is no sense of American greatness or even an attempt to promote patriotism.
  • After ignoring the Holocaust in the first draft of standards, the second draft would have students explore alternative narratives. It begs the question: What narrative other than the Holocaust being a systemic attempt at total extermination might students be asked to explore?

Our education system works best when families and parents are involved in the decision-making process. With this in mind, I strongly urge you to review the education standards being proposed by the Department of Education, provide your input in an online survey and contact your local school officials.

To review the full draft, visit https://education.mn.gov and enter “Social Studies Standards Draft Two for Public Comment” in the website’s search field. To participate in the standards survey, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/socialstudiesdraft2.

The survey closes at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 16.