The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 14, 2013

Controversial social studies standards have local backers

MANKATO — The state Department of Education’s plan to revise the social studies standards has caused some controversy over whether the new lens focuses too much on slavery and oppression and not enough on “American exceptionalism.”

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West High School social studies teacher Bob Ihrig sent testimony to a judge on behalf of Mankato Area Public Schools, which supports the implementation of the new standards.

 Cindy Amoroso, Mankato Schools director of curriculum instruction, said the district already has been preparing for the changes to go into effect this fall if Administrative Law Judge Barbara Neilson approves them.

“We support the standards as proposed, and we’ve been working on our course revisions since last year,” Amoroso said.

In Ihrig’s testimony he said he focused on the group of critics whom he considers to have a political agenda with intent to “indoctrinate students with ideological religious values.”

He said a broad-based statewide committee of experts in the field put together the standards that reflect “what students ought to know” without any kind of agenda or political slant.

Critics oppose standards

Some critics — including Julie Quist, an education activist from St. Peter — say there isn’t enough focus on “inalienable rights” in the standards. Quist declined to comment, but she provided public oral testimony to the judge that emphasized the need to highlight the principles of freedom and liberty in the standards.

“... I would like to call attention to a serious flaw within these proposed new social studies standards which, I believe, goes to the heart of many other objections within the document,” she said. “Inalienable rights are given short shrift. In fact, inalienable rights are almost completely erased from existence within the new standards.”

Instead, she said, the standards continually refer to “individual rights.”

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