Why did the legislature repeal the option for locally adopted arts standards?

The DFL-controlled legislature passed many changes to Minnesota’s E-12 education landscape this past legislative session. One of those changes is the removal of a local arts standards option.

While the Minnesota Department of Education reviews and revises K-12 academic standards that districts then implement, state law previously allowed a district to use either the state’s arts standards (which include dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts) or develop arts standards locally. Now, beginning with the 2024-25 school year, all K-12 students must learn the state arts standards.

Why the change? Well, perhaps it has to do with the new requirement also passed by the legislature that ethnic studies be embedded in all areas of state standards. Maintaining the local option would allow districts to develop arts standards that just focused on…arts. Additionally, an ethnic studies course “may fulfill” an arts credit “if the course meets the applicable state academic standards.”

Source: MDE

To prepare secondary educators to teach students this new ideologically-loaded version of “arts” — which will be strategically laced with concepts that encourage reductive, racialized thinking — MDE is hosting a three-day professional development seminar in August titled, “Reimagining Arts and Ethnic Studies Summer Institute: Identity, Power, and Resistance in Education.”

We invite participants to explore the intersection of the arts and ethnic studies, and unpack the connection between identity, social activism, and the arts. [Emphasis added] Participants will also investigate how the arts can empower students to reclaim, envision, and create — centering their voices as counter-narratives against historical and contemporary injustices.

Participants will be “guided” in “exploring concepts of identity, power, and resistance as big ideas that can help them reimagine learning in the arts and ethnic studies.” By the end of the institute, they will “have the opportunity to develop and pilot innovative and culturally responsive lessons or units of study during the [2023-24] school year.”

The summer institute is part of MDE’s Culturally Responsive Arts Education Program, which cites Gloria Ladson-Billings — a key figure behind Critical Race Theory — as a guide to Minnesota’s culturally responsive education.

This is yet another example of state efforts to divert energy away from the primary function of our schools.