Judge mostly approves vague, divisive, unmeasurable social studies standards

The Office of Administrative Hearings announced today they are approving rulemaking from the Minnesota Department of Education regarding the proposed new social studies standards. Despite testimony from policy experts at American Experiment and thousands of comments from the public opposing this draft, the judges mostly approved the document, putting it one step closer to final approval.

Judge Eric Lipman did reject one part of the standards that he said revealed “weaknesses in the text.”

Ways of Knowing and Methodologies: The student will use ethnic and Indigenous studies methods and sources in order to understand the roots of contemporary systems of oppression and apply lessons from the past in order to eliminate historical and contemporary injustices.

Lipman wrote:

A plain reading of the text suggests that each student must eliminate a historical and contemporary injustice to satisfy the academic standard. This expectation is unduly vague, because those who are subject to the standard cannot know what is needed to meet the requirements and strict compliance is unreasonable and implausible.

American Experiment Policy Fellow for Education Catrin Wigfall issued the following statement in response to the judge’s order:

The decision from the Office of Administrative Hearings to mostly approve the proposed social studies standards is very disappointing, and not in the best interest of students, parents and teachers in Minnesota. Although we are pleased Judge Lipman listened to our feedback and declared part of the standards “unduly vague” and “weak,” he should have applied this same reasoning to the entire rule. With small changes from the Department of Education, these unmeasurable, subjective, and overly abstract standards will soon be imposed on local school districts, placing the burden of interpreting them on teachers.

Judge Lipman took a very narrow look at how the standards technically met the requirements of the rulemaking process, and the result is a standards document that will at best confuse teachers and students and at worst force them to endorse a divisive and conflict-based ideology. 

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