Lessons not learned

The Educrats’ newest approach at social studies standards doubles down on Critical Race Theory.

In November 2021, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released the third draft of its proposed new social studies standards. If adopted, the standards—with their radical, ideologically driven agenda— will determine what our state’s K-12 students learn over the next 10 years.

Center of the American Experiment is gearing up for a long-haul fight as the standards wend their way through the potentially two-year rule-making process.

MDE’s final draft is driven by the themes of Critical Race Theory (CRT): group identity based on race; life as a power struggle between oppressors and victims; and American history as a shameful story of domination, marginalization, and injustice. Ideology has replaced the basic factual knowledge students need to be informed citizens.

The primary vehicle for CRT ideology is “Ethnic Studies”—a highly politicized “fifth strand” added to the four Social Studies content areas named in state law. The first of these standards (Std. 23) teaches that a student’s personal identity is determined by his or her group status:

  • “Identity: Analyze the ways power and language construct the social identities of race, religion, geography, ethnicity and gender. Apply these understandings,…centering those whose stories and histories have been marginalized, erased or ignored.”
  • The second and third standards (Std. 24 and Std. 25) require students to organize to “resist” America’s “systemic” abuse of power against “marginalized,” “oppressed” groups.
  • “Resistance: Describe how individuals and communities have fought for freedom and liberation against systemic and coordinated exercises of power locally and globally…and organize with others…,” and
  • “Use ethnic and indigenous studies methods in order to understand the roots of contemporary systems of oppression and apply lessons from the past to eliminate historical and contemporary injustices.”

How will radical Ethnic Studies standards play out in Minnesota classrooms?

First-graders must “identify examples of ethnicity, equality, liberation and systems of power, and use those examples to construct meanings for those terms.”

High school students will be required to “analyze how caste systems based upon race, social class, and religion have been used to justify imperialism, colonization, warfare, and chattel slavery;” and to “examine the construction of racialized hierarchies based on colorism and dominant European beauty standards and values.”

The standards reframe American history as a woeful tale of “colonialism,” slavery, racism, and imperialism. They say nothing about the major leaders, events, and outcomes of the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. Instead, the focus is on analyzing “dominant and non-dominant narratives” and “absent voices.”

Likewise, the standards teach next to nothing about the basic facts of World History, from the ancient to the modern world. They are silent on the Soviet Union and its gulags, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, and North Korea. Instead, they reserve a tone of outrage for U.S. “imperialism” and “oppression.”

In geography class, Minnesota students will no longer learn the names and location of continents, the Pacific Ocean, the Amazon, the Rocky Mountains, France, or India. Instead, they will “describe places and regions, explaining how they are influenced by power structures.” (Std. 14)

MDE’s proposed Social Studies standards will condition Minnesota’s young people to feel reflexive suspicion and hostility toward their country, and prime them for political activism, or “resistance”—in the words of Ethnic Studies Standard 24.

Starting in elementary grades, the standards teach that America is deeply unjust. Then they require students to “organize” to “solve problems” or “take action”— along ideological lines—from a base of almost total ignorance about how our nation got where it is today, or alternatives to American institutions.