Opponents of revised social studies standards are ‘racist’ and ‘harmful,’ committee continues to claim

The meetings are no longer available to view on the Minnesota Department of Education’s YouTube channel, where they were originally streamed.

Minnesota Department of Education/Facebook

Members of a committee tasked with revising Minnesota’s K-12 social studies standards continue to spread the claim that opponents hold “racist” and “harmful” views.

Minnesota’s 2011 social studies standards are currently undergoing changes for implementation in schools by fall 2025. The first draft of the new standards centers around LGBT issues, race, and climate change, and removes benchmarks for World War I and World War II, the American Revolution, and the Civil War.

In a previous public meeting held Jan. 11, the committee discussed feedback it received on the standards and called a letter sent by more than 5,000 parents “white supremacy.”

The full committee held another public meeting Thursday to provide an update on the process.

No work on revising the first draft has been completed since the Jan. 11 meeting because the committee has spent the last two months reading through the 13,000 surveys, emails, and letters submitted by residents. The Thursday meeting served to summarize those responses.

Committee member Katherine Gerbner introduced the committee’s findings by noting that while it did receive constructive feedback, some “harmful and racist comments were made” by those who oppose some of the proposed changes.

The number one “message” the committee heard from citizens was about “representation,” Gerbner said.

“One was ‘we don’t want to be erased.’ And the other was ‘we will not be erased anymore,’” she explained. “I just want to make it clear that representation of groups in histories that have been excluded from previous standards does not equal the erasure of traditionally represented groups in histories.”

She said that while academic standards are created at the state level, curricula are made at the local level. This means that a certain topic may not be required by state standards, but could still be taught in certain districts.

“I want to assure those listening that [World War II and the Holocaust] will be in the next draft, and their absence was really due to the fact that the benchmarks were not the main focus of draft one,” Gerbner said.

Few public comments were read directly by committee members, but one statement from a student who was “ashamed” of their education was highlighted. “I have been fed a whitewashed version of history, and I am ashamed,” the teenager said.

Other public comments shared in the meeting were supportive of prioritizing diversity and  “anti-racism” when writing the standards.

Gerbner claimed that some black and indigenous members of the committee have been “harassed and subjected to racist attacks on social media” because of the public opposition.

She added that these members “bring experiences, perspectives, and wisdom that this committee and this state desperately, desperately need. And they are needed not only on this committee, but at the center of this committee.”

Gerbner noted that her comments were for the public to contemplate and take into consideration before recording members of the committee or publishing their names and workplaces, which is “directly leading to harassment.”

The afternoon session of the meeting consisted almost exclusively of an “ethnic studies” training for committee members and involved several professors from Macalester College, the University of Minnesota, and Metropolitan State University.

Livestreams of both the morning and afternoon sessions of the meeting were abruptly stopped soon after the hour-and-a-half mark. The meetings are no longer available to view on the Minnesota Department of Education’s YouTube channel, where they were originally streamed.