Minnesota’s new academic standards seek to turn students into revolutionaries

Minnesota’s Department of Education tells families in the North Star State that its new social studies academic standards “prepare students for success in careers, college and civic life.” Unless that means training for life as a revolutionary, it’s hard to see how these standards do any such thing.

The students undergoing this “education” would become not only seething activists intent on transforming their country, but also woefully ignorant Minnesotans, having been taught wrong events and causal relationships. This turns on its head the traditional goal of education, which is to transmit a nation’s culture to future generations, as well as knowledge of subject matters.

Academic standards matter. They amount to the official expectations of the state for children going through the K-12 educational pipeline. They are renewed every so many years — a 10-year cycle in Minnesota’s case.

Once the state’s educational authorities have decided on a plan, school districts “are required to put state standards into place so all students have access to high-quality content and instruction.”

The Minnesota standards, however, are replete with the jargon of critical race theory and other cultural Marxist schemes to induce students to mistrust their own culture, and to boil down all human interaction to an epic struggle between dominant and subservient groups.

For example, the guidelines for the social studies standards give instructions on how to analyze “dominant and non-dominant narratives,” (the term “dominant” appears a total of 85 times in 120 pages), “oppression” (which, when teamed with “systematic” or “systems of,” appears 17 times), and “power” (72 times, often twined with “dynamics”).

The word “identity,” so important to the campaign to upend traditional understandings of nationhood, also pervades the standards, appearing in singular and plural forms 65 times. Variations on “colonialism” appear 28 times, and are coupled with “settler” 10 times. Lastly, “race” or “racial” appears 36 times, and “climate” 16 times.

The MDE can tell parents all it wants that the standards are “unifying,” but as Katherine Kersten of the Center of the American Experiment wrote in the Star Tribune, “In reality, they will divide our young people by group identity, teach them to view social life as a zero-sum power struggle between oppressors (bad) and victims (good), and convert public schools into boot camps for political activism.”

The Center of the American Experiment has done important yeoman’s work in spotlighting the brewing catastrophe. It shared with me the standards’ “examples,” which explain to teachers how to implement the curriculum, after obtaining them from a reluctant MDE through a public data request.

The Center has revealed, for example, how activists from a leftist group called “Education for Liberation Minnesota” and its affiliate Minnesota Ethnic Studies Coalition took over the writing of the standards.

The process took years, but as it has become evident in case after case, cultural Marxists intent on burrowing inside educational institutions in order to shape the instruction of the young are patient, committed, and ruthless with those espousing competing views.

The standards and the accompanying explanations are perfect illustrations of how deeply ideological the content of education can be. The concept of “dominant and non-dominant narratives,” for example, has been a staple of cultural Marxism — the idea that revolutionaries must take over the culture first and de-emphasize Marx’s economic imperative, focusing instead on tearing down society’s dominant norms and traditions — for at least a century.

In Paulo Freire’s 1993 “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” the word dominant—as in “dominant standard discourse,” “dominant ideology,” of “dominant social construction”—appears 54 times. The book by Freire, a Brazilian Maoist, is the most used textbook in schools of education, some studies have shown.

The “examples” accompanying the standards suggest to teachers that they use Israel as an example to show the students not just how a dominant culture oppresses another, but even how “genocide” is practiced.

Worse yet, that example comes in the section on geography. All the different subject matters included under “social studies” these days—geography, history, economics, citizenship and government, and ethnic studies—are equally ladened with ideological bias.

Another example under geography enjoins teachers to describe to students “places and regions, explaining how they are influenced by power structures.”

Under ethnic studies, teachers are told at one point to, “Compare the liberation struggles of people in different regions of the world that have fought for self-determination, liberation, and the empowerment of disenfranchised and/or marginalized groups.” It gives as examples not just the Israel/Palestinian conflict, but also, in China, “Cultural Revolution/Chiang Kai Shek.”


Except that Chiang and his nationalists fled Mainland China in 1949 after being defeated by Mao’s communists. Mao launched his Cultural Revolution in 1966, almost two decades later, and it lasted until 1976. Not only did it have nothing to do with Chiang, but it has been recognized by all as a destructive outpouring of violence, as Mao turned students into “Red Guards” in a bid to stay in power.

In other words, it was pretty similar to the cultural revolution some people would like to unleash in Minnesota, and all of the United States, today.

Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the author of NextGen Marxism: What It Is and How to Combat It.

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