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Civic Education for the Next Generation

Across America these last several months, we have witnessed a very troubling situation where violent actors are trying to do an end-run around public discourse. This is done to intimidate and silence voices. These folks want to short-cut public debate through fear. They want to make people scared. This is un-American. And it certainly has no place in South Dakota.


Whether on the left or the right, political violence is not the answer. Our political process, though contentious at times, works because we resolve issues through discussion and rigorous debate. Sometimes, political debate will include peaceful protests. Assembly is a tool, enshrined in the Constitution, to help drive a point home. Every American has a right to protest peacefully. That right ends where violence begins.


We saw a similar situation play out on Capitol Hill a few days ago. We were all appalled by it. Frankly, it was horrible to watch. Today, we have an opportunity to address the root cause of this problem: we must reform young Americans’ civic education.


Students should be taught our nation’s history and all that makes America unique. They should see first-hand the importance of civic engagement. And they should have robust discussions in the classroom so they can develop critical thinking skills.   


Our young people need more experience engaging with elected officials and practicing the art of debate. It is also our responsibility to show them how government works. 


I have tasked my administration with creating instructional materials and classroom resources on America’s founding, our nation’s history, and the state’s history. We must also do a better job giving teachers preparational materials on these three subjects.


Through all of this, our common mission and key objective needs to be explaining why the United States of America is the most unique nation in the history of the world. With this knowledge as a foundational building block, every South Dakotan can then chart their own path in the future and pursue their own American Dream.


We all know that good education starts in the home. It starts with strong families. We have decades of research to show that families are the most critical influence on a child’s success in the classroom. COVID-19 underscored just how involved parents need to be in their children’s day-to-day education. It’s our duty to find innovative solutions that empower parents to set their children up for success. 


Coupled with the tremendous work that South Dakota teachers are doing, I believe we can make immediate and long-lasting change in the lives of young South Dakotans. Together, my administration will work to support them and ensure that they are getting the very best materials to achieve that goal.