The Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) submitted comments opposing the proposed changes to Minnesota’s K–12 Academic Standards in Social Studies. UMLC President and Founder Douglas P. Seaton wrote that the proposed standards are illegal and unconstitutional under Minnesota and federal law. Seaton holds a Ph.D. in history and is a former teacher, including teaching diversity principles and minority history to high school teachers in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
In a detailed critique sent to Administrative Law Judge Eric L. Lipman, Seaton highlighted several key issues. First, the proposed rules aim to replace grade-specific social studies standards with a single set of statewide standards for all grades, from kindergarten to twelfth grade. UMLC argues that this one-size-fits-all approach contradicts the statutory requirement for standards to be “grade-level appropriate” and, as a result, cannot meet the essential educational needs of students across different age groups.
Additionally, UMLC raised concerns about specific standards within the proposed curriculum, particularly those under the “Ethnic Studies” strand. These standards, which compel students to engage in political activism, violate students’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to endorse particular beliefs or engage in political speech they might object to. The proposed standards’ vague language, especially in the “Resistance” and “Ways of Knowing and Methodologies” sections, fails to provide clear, measurable criteria for teachers, rendering them unenforceable and open to subjective interpretation.
According to the 2023 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, 50.3% of examined students fall below the grade-level reading standards, while 54.7% do not meet the grade-level math standards. UMLC believes that the proposed standards will not improve student achievement and will continue to intensify the problem.
“We firmly believe that educational standards should empower students, not restrict their constitutional rights. Rather than raising academic expectations and respecting diverse viewpoints, the proposed standards overlook the crucial need for grade-appropriate, measurable, and objective educational standards,” said UMLC President Doug Seaton. “The proposed social studies standards, with their vague language and compulsory political activism, do not meet the rigorous standards our students deserve. Our mission at UMLC is to safeguard fundamental freedoms, and we stand against academic standards that compromise those rights.”