Earlier this month, a Minnesota administrative law judge gave the state final approval to implement the most ideologically progressive and intellectually vapid social studies standards in America.

The Minnesota Department of Education faced an administrative legal challenge to its standards, which, according to the judge, “identify the knowledge and skills that Minnesota students must have at the end of particular grade levels and for graduation.” Critics claimed that the department lacked the authority to include ethnic studies criteria in its standards, and that the standards themselves were too vague. The judge upheld the department’s authority to include such criteria in its standards but took issue with one passage:

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.

While this language certainly presents problems, the judge objected not to its spirit but to its construction, arguing that “[a] plain reading of the text suggests that each student must eliminate a historical and contemporary injustice to satisfy the standard.” In response, the MNDOE amended the language slightly and successfully passed new standards.

Unlike California, which drafted a dedicated ethnic studies curricular framework in 2019, Minnesota’s standards are not obviously anti-Semitic. Nor do Minnesota’s standards direct students, as California’s original framework did, to engage in chants derived from Aztec human sacrifice rituals. Yet the spirit and purpose of Minnesota’s standards are plain: to produce graduates who embrace left-wing activism and promote a left-wing worldview.

The standards task first-graders with identifying “examples of ethnicity, equality, liberation and systems of power.” They require seventh-graders to examine “the benefits and consequences of power and privilege,” and they introduce ninth-graders to “the construction of racialized hierarchies based on colorism and dominant European beauty standards and values.”

The standards take seriously the complaint of leftist academics, who maintain that American social studies is “Eurocentric.” As such, Minnesota students will not be asked to learn anything about Europe until ninth grade. Then, students will be taught to “identify different historical perspectives about religion, slavery, feudalism and disease in Europe and the Mediterranean World, including the Ottoman Empire,” and “identify the influence of Islamic centers of learning on the European Renaissance.” The standards make zero mention of Greece, Rome, Spain, France, or even England. By contrast, they reference Native American–related items 48 times. Similarly, Christianity doesn’t make its first appearance until eighth grade, and then only as one of nine religions whose basic tenets students are asked to describe.

State social studies standards typically insist that students know particular facts, figures, and treaties. Minnesota’s standards, by contrast, disdain this approach in favor of telling teachers that students should “examine dominant and non-dominant narratives” about huge swathes of history. For example, Minnesota’s standards require students to “identify and examine dominant and non-dominant narratives about the development of cities, societies and empires in Asia, the Americas and Africa,” (2,500 B.C.–800 A.D.) and “evaluate dominant and non-dominant narratives about the first global age” (1400–1800).

If the standards are implemented faithfully, Minnesota high school graduates won’t know much of anything about the world. But they will have been asked, every year from kindergarten through twelfth grade, to “analyze the ways power and language construct the social identities of race, religion, geography, ethnicity and gender,” and to “apply these understandings to one’s own social identities and other groups living in Minnesota, centering those whose stories and histories have been marginalized, erased or ignored.” In fact, the “stories and histories” that have been “marginalized” and “ignored” in these standards are those that most states still insist be taught: from Pericles to the papacy, from Robespierre to Rembrandt, from Locke to Leonardo da Vinci.

Under this pedagogical framework, Minnesota high school graduates will learn to resent things that they never even got the chance to understand. Maybe a few bright ones will look back at their education and properly recognize it as part of a contemporary system of indoctrination. But that’s a slim reed to cling to.

Photo: Victoria Pearson/The Image Bank via Getty Images


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