GOP Gov. Kristi Noem signs "1776 pledge" to ban "anti-American indoctrination" in public schools

The South Dakota Republican raises the stakes in the GOP's longtime war against the NYT Magazine's 1619 Project

By Jon Skolnik
Published May 6, 2021 3:32PM (EDT)
In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem addresses the virtual convention on August 26, 2020. (Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)
In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem addresses the virtual convention on August 26, 2020. (Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has joined the chorus of state and federal Republicans calling for an end to "anti-American indoctrination" in public schools, emphasizing the need to restore a "patriotic education" for children across the country. 

In a spate of tweets on Monday, Noem revealed that she had joined the "1776 Pledge to Save Our Schools," an informal vow taken by several politicians – including former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson – who have committed to bringing back an "honest, patriotic education that cultivates in our children a profound love for our country," according to The Hill.

"Young people should be taught to view one another not according to race or gender," the pledge states, "but as individuals made in the image of God."

Noem tweeted: "Teaching our children & grandchildren to hate their own country & pitting them against one another on the basis of race or sex is shameful & must be stopped. I'm proud to be the 1st candidate in America to sign 'The 1776 Pledge to Save Our Schools."

On Monday, Noem and Carson penned a joint op-ed, spelling out the need for educators to specifically resist incorporating critical race theory into their curriculums. "Not only is this extreme ideology deeply divisive and harmful," they wrote. "but it rejects America's most defining principle – that as individuals we are all created equal by God."

The two added: "Critical race theory is a deliberate means to sow division and cripple our nation from within – one brainwashed and resentful student at a time. And while foreign adversaries like China and Russia surely work to inflame our divisions, we are doing this to ourselves."

Noem and Carson also called the challenge to defeat "ascendant anti-Americanism…perhaps the most important cultural challenge of our lifetime."

Noem's pledge is just the latest in her quest to imbue South Dakota's education system with a sense of blind patriotism. Back in January, Noem proposed a $900,000 fund to help civics and history teachers better explain "why the United States of America is the most special nation in the history of the world." Noem also wrote an op-ed in The Federalist that month, claiming that the country "has failed to educate generations of our children about what makes America unique."

"Few, if any of them, have been taught the history of our decades-long fight to defeat communism," she wrote. "Meanwhile, the left's indoctrination takes place every day with kids all across America from the time they walk into a school at age 5 to the time they graduate college at 22."

The South Dakota governor's move is part of a broader nationwide push led by Republican state and federal lawmakers to eradicate "wokeism" from the public sphere. 

As Salon reported on Tuesday, myriad other states have led efforts to crack down on critical race theory and leftist ideology in the classroom, including Idaho, Missouri, Florida, Oklahoma, and others. In the past several weeks, the GOP push has put on display the party's glaring lack of historical literacy, specifically with respect to slavery. 

In one instance, Louisiana state Rep. Ray Garofalo argued in a floor speech that teachers should be encouraged to teach the "good" of slavery. In another, senators from Colorado and Tennessee recently attempted to frame the Three-Fifths Compromise as a pro-abolition effort. 

On Thursday, in an interview with Newsweek, Kimberlé Crenshaw, a leading proponent of critical race theory, clapped back at the GOP's affinity for revisionist history.

"The attacks on critical race theory in Idaho and across the country are evidence of a frightening truth: Republican legislators are using a phantom threat to justify jaw-dropping attacks on racial justice, freedom of speech and a society's understanding of its history," Crenshaw declared. 

She added: "Democracy itself rests on the idea that our laws and social practices are engaged with real issues. However, in much the same way that attacks on voting rights are justified by non-existent voter fraud, attacks on critical race theory are grounded in reactionary concern about racial progress and the leveling of the playing field.


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News.

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1619 Project 1776 Pledge Aggregate Critical Race Theory Gop Kristi Noem Republicans South Dakota