SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Paul Harens is a former educator from South Dakota and a member of the original 2021 Social Studies Education Content Standards Task Force, which saw its work revised, postponed and ultimately abandoned over the past 12 months.
In a conversation with KELOLAND News on Friday, he expressed concern and frustration with the newly appointed 15-person commission, whose members were selected by the governor’s office, and with what he believes to be their ultimate goal.
“She brings the 1776 Project program,” Harens said, referring to Gov. Kristi Noem. “Look at the other guys she brings in – this Dylan Kessler – he graduated from Hillsdale College.”
KELOLAND News reached out to the governor’s office Monday morning, seeking comment regarding the potential implementation of a set of standards based on the 1776 report.
Noem’s director of communications, Ian Fury, responded by email, saying: “Governor Noem believes our children should be taught the true history of America, both good and bad, and that a greater emphasis strong should be placed on civic education which instills a sense of pride in our country. . That is why she was the first candidate in the country to sign the 1776 pledge.”
Kessler is a member of the new commission and director of a retirement community. As mentioned by Harens, Kessler is an alumnus of Hillsdale College, a private conservative college in Michigan.
Fury is also a Hillsdale alum, but that’s not the end of the Hillsdale ties.
“Whoever did the interviews for all those positions – you had Professor William Morrisey,” Harens said. Morrisey is professor emeritus at Hillsdale College, where he taught politics.
Morrisey, now retired, is currently the City Commissioner of Hillsdale, Michigan. His term expires later this year.
Asked about Morrisey’s involvement, Fury said:
The selection of Mr. Morrisey as a facilitator ensures that the process is led by a well-accredited educator in the field. In the past, the DOE has not required animators to be from South Dakota, and it hasn’t here either. Ultimately, the Board of Education Standards will hold public hearings and make the final decision on the new standards. South Dakotans will have several opportunities to provide feedback on this final version through the public hearing process.
Morrisey double majored in Political Science and English at Kenyon College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts. He obtained his master’s and doctorate. in Liberal Studies at the New School for Social Research.
A Hillsdale colleague, college president Larry Arnn, served on the 1776 commission, established by former President Donald Trump. The commission created the 1776 report.
Former housing and urban development secretary Dr Ben Carson, also a commissioner, went on to defend the ‘1776 pledge to save our schools’, which Noem became the first candidate for public office to sign. in May 2021.
During her January 2022 State of the State Address, Noem would again be joined by Carson as she touched on “critical race theory” and said students had a “distorted view of story” and that they should know the “true and honest story”.
Morrisey wasn’t the only person conducting interviews for the selection process. Harens lists Allen Cambon, senior policy adviser for Noem, as another.
“Now he has an undergraduate degree — I’m thinking government,” Harens said.
Cambon holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Louisiana State University, according to his biography on the governor’s office website.
The third member of the interview process is also a concern for Harens.
“Dr. Ben Jones, of the State Historical Society — is a former head of the Department of Education — but also, he was on the interview panel,” Harens said.
Jones is also a member of the new commission, and although Harens thinks he is qualified, he also finds it strange that a member of the commission is also in charge of selecting the members.
The composition of the commission as a whole is also an issue for Harens.
“You have several students,” he said. “Why aren’t there people in primary and secondary school who have expertise in the humanities?
Harens’ other big concern is the size of the new group, which has been condensed from 44 members to 15.
“There was an advantage to having this larger pool,” Harens said, explaining that the 44 members split into small groups of four to five members in order to tackle specific topics in social studies such as history. and world geography.
The process for the initial working group took two months from when they were approved to when they submitted their project. Harens doesn’t think 15 people can do the same job in that amount of time.
“I want to know how these 15 people are going to get through K-12,” he asked rhetorically. “They can’t do it. The only way for them to get through these K-12 standards is to hand them standards – it will be the 1776 curriculum, which is already worked out.