Dahms spreading misinformation on Social Studies standards

To the editor:

Last month, Senator Gary Dahms posted a Facebook video concerning proposed changes to the K-12 social studies standards. In this video he made many of the same misstatements as the writer in this paper’s March 11th Letter to the Editor, “Proposed Social Studies curriculum changes.”These are standards, not a curriculum, as claimed by the letter writer. Standards are the framework for curricula. School districts, not the state, guide curriculum. Furthermore, there seems to be misunderstanding about the scope of the draft. The draft itself states “It is important to note that the draft does not direct or imply a particular curricular or instructional model. It also reflects initial work of the committee and is being presented for initial feedback. It is not complete nor final.”

Both the letter writer and Senator Dahms made inaccurate assertions about the content of the draft. They claim the proposals remove or dilute pivotal world events. Per the MDE Social Studies webpage: “Historical U.S. and world events like WWII and the Holocaust are being taught in Minnesota schools and will continue to be taught.”

Senator Dahms and the letter writer used information that appears to be derived from a biased third-party source, rather than the MDE itself. I brought this to the attention of Senator Dahms on his Facebook page, while posting links to the MDE documents and discussions of the revisions process. My comments were deleted, and I have been prohibited from any further posting on his official page. I called to ask for the source of the Senator’s claims and to understand why my comments were deleted while others (some with profanity and vague threats) remained. I was told by a staffer that my posts (including the MDE) were misinformation, and they were not able to keep up with deleting the inflammatory posts made by others. Legality of banning a “dissenting” voice from a government official’s social media page aside (Davison v. Randall), it is troubling to me that Senator Dahms would selectively censor constituents. Ironically, Senator Dahms opened the video with “Everybody may have a different opinion and that’s great” only to selectively censor voices he is tasked to represent. Like so many official statements issued by my representatives lately, the intent seemed to be to inflame rather than inform.

As evidenced by the comments in and on Senator Dahms’ video and the sentiment of those words repeated here in this newspaper, we need to further emphasize critical thinking in education. There is an oft-repeated saying – “history is written by the victors.” As a parent of two public school students, I welcome the proposed standard: “Recognize diverse points of view and develop an informed and empathetic awareness of how identity (i.e. gender, race, religion, and culture), class, and geography influence historical perspective”. A sincere thank you to our educators for their extraordinary work in helping our children become informed and empathetic citizens.

Sarah Leslie

New Ulm


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