State Watch

Noem signs order restricting teaching of critical race theory in South Dakota schools

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) speaks during a Conservative Political Action Conference held on July 11, 2021 in Dallas
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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed an executive order on Tuesday that restricts the teaching of critical race theory in Mount Rushmore State schools.

The executive order mandates that the Education Department does not “direct or compel” department personnel or students to “personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to inherently divisive concepts.” It also directs the education secretary to find and end any policies, guidelines, websites, trainings, content standards and other materials that “promote inherently divisive concepts.”

The motion says “inherently divisive concepts” refer to ideas that are in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including that one race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity or national origin is inherently superior, or that individuals are treated a specific way because of their racial, ethnic or religious identity.

“Political indoctrination has no place in our classrooms,” Noem said in a statement. “Our children will not be taught that they are racists or that they are victims, and they will not be compelled to feel responsible for the mistakes of their ancestors. We will guarantee that our students learn America’s true and honest history – that includes both our triumphs and our mistakes.”

South Dakota is the latest Republican-led state to target critical race theory. Legislatures in a number of states have considered actions that would prohibit or limit education involving critical race theory in public schools.

Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas are among the states that have signed bills restricting or banning critical race theory in schools.

Critical race theory is an academic notion that evolved in the 1970s and 1980s by legal theorists. The principle believes that racism is entrenched in U.S. history and fixed in some remaining laws. In recent years, school districts and boards have embraced new strategies that provide education on dark periods of American history through methods that more closely align with beliefs of critical race theory.

Noem, in her executive order, described critical race theory as “a political and divisive ideology that teaches a distorted view of the United States of America and its institution.”

She said the theory “compels students to view the world through a purely racial lens and to judge others based on the color or their skin rather than the content of their character.”

Noem’s executive order comes just more than two weeks after she signed a bill that bans public universities in the state from utilizing materials for training and orientation that could bring about racially based “discomfort.”

She mentioned critical race theory in a statement announcing the bill signing.

“No student or teacher should have to endorse Critical Race Theory in order to attend, graduate from, or teach at our public universities,” Noem said. “College should remain a place where freedom of thought and expression are encouraged, not stifled by political agendas.”

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