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Judge approves nearly all updates to state social studies standards

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SAINT PAUL, Minnesota. Jan. 16, 2024 – New standards for teaching social studies, approved by an administrative law judge Tuesday, will prepare the next generations of Minnesotans to understand our shared history and help them avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. 

“The proposed social studies standards, including the ethnic studies strand, will provide the framework educators can use to present the parts of American history that have been suppressed or whitewashed while retaining the inspirational stories in which our nation lived up to its ideals,” Specht said. “The courts correctly rejected arguments that would have denied our students the freedom to learn history in ways that encourage them to grow up and collaborate with people from different backgrounds to build a state where everyone can thrive.” 

Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman recommended the adoption of the new standards, which were developed over a years-long public process, with few exceptions. He rejected one standard for vagueness because it directed students to: “… 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;” 

Education Minnesota supports a remedy that adds clarity to the passage while retaining the intent of the original language, including either of the judge’s own suggestions. One of which was rewriting the identified section as directing students to “… investigate how ethnic or racial groups and society address systemic oppressions through social movements, local, community, national, and global advocacy, and individual champions.” 

“I want to thank all the educators who donated their time and expertise in the rule-making process and during the public comment periods,” Specht said. “Educators voices are vital to ensuring academic standards are effective and workable in today’s public schools.” 

The standards now go to the Minnesota Department of Education, which will create an implementation plan. 

About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.

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