Editorial Roundup: South Dakota

Madison Daily Leader. January 25, 2023.

Editorial: Can we avoid a “Santos” In S.D.?

Rep. George Santos is a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing New York’s Third Congressional District. He was elected on a platform of lies. This isn’t political rhetoric; the lies were discovered and he has admitted to them.

He said he attended and graduated from Baruch College, starring on the volleyball team. He never attended the school. He said he worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup in New York City. He never worked for either firm. He said his mother was working in the World Trade Center when it was struck on 9/11 and died because of it. She was in Brazil at the time and died several years later.

He said he had four employees who died in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. None of the 49 victims ever worked for a company that Santos worked for. He said he is Jewish when he isn’t.

Santos was elected in November. Most of his lies came to a national spotlight after the election, although a local newspaper called The North Shore Leader reported some of the falsehoods before the election. Santos took the congressional oath of office earlier this month, and other members of Congress are trying to figure out what to do. Their reputation is on the line.

We can’t imagine this type of thing happening in South Dakota, right? Doesn’t it seem as though we know most of the candidates well enough to see any lies? It may be true that someone couldn’t lie as many times as George Santos did, but it seems very possible that a candidate could deceive voters on a lesser scale.

There isn’t much of a vetting process for candidates in South Dakota. Past misdeeds may be looked up by the political party the potential candidate belongs to, but in many cases, the political parties are desperate to recruit candidates to run and aren’t thorough in screening.

An opponent may look up falsehoods, although they may be accused of “digging up dirt.” The local newspaper might do that research, but in certain markets in South Dakota, the newspapers don’t have the resources anymore to do thorough research on every candidate.

Columnist Peggy Noonan wrote on Saturday: “If you think Facebook posts can make up for local newspaper investigations, ladies and gentlemen, we give you New York’s Third Congressional District.”

So what can be done? We must do better on all fronts: parties must be more thorough in vetting. Opposing candidates should learn all they can about opponents. Objective media must commit to reporting the truth.

We have some optimism on this front. Several new news organizations have sprung up, all with the mission of discovering and reporting things that are going unreported. South Dakota NewsWatch is the state’s first nonprofit news organization covering statewide issues. South Dakota Searchlight is also a nonprofit news organization, focusing more on state Capitol reporting. The Dakota Scout is a new newspaper/paid website that covers both Sioux Falls and Pierre politics.

Let’s all commit to fielding honorable candidates for all elected offices and avoid the embarrassment of what’s now happening on Long Island in New York.


Yankton Press & Dakotan. January 24, 2023.

Editorial: US Exceptionalism And SD School Curricula

A bill introduced in the South Dakota House calling for the promotion of “American exceptionalism” in schools and colleges may not specifically be related to the efforts to revamp the state’s social studies standards, but it certainly seems to be flying a parallel course.

House Bill 1070 (HB1070) would create the “Center for American Exceptionalism” at Black Hills State University. According to South Dakota Searchlight, it would “curate supplemental curriculum on American history and civic education.” Unlike the proposed social studies standards, the supplemental curriculum would be optional.

The proposed center would be state funded, with the bill calling for $150,000 to be allocated to the project.

Rep. Scott Odenbach (R-Spearfish) said, “We’re not interested in indoctrinating students. We want students to engage in critical thinking.” But, according to The Associated Press, he also said that, when students graduate from the state’s educational institutions, “they should love America” — which, in a vacuum, sounds a lot like an end goal of indoctrination.

America is an amazingly diverse tapestry of people and backgrounds, and it has thrived on a democratic principle that remains unmatched anywhere. We love this country because it offers so much to so many, and its horizons seem boundless.

But America is not a flawless land: It has had its share of struggles and mistakes. We remind you again, one key to America’s greatness has been its willingness to face up to these issues and address them. While this process has taken longer on some matters than others and there is always more work to do, it still shows the hallmark of a vibrant nation that is constantly evolving with the times and the people. And that could be one definition of “exceptional.”

However, HB1070 seems part of a trend of moving away from critical self-examination of our past, which has been seen in the current contentious battle over social studies standards. The latter proposal (actually, proposals — this task is currently on its second go-round after controversy scuttled the first effort) seems to downplay Native American aspects of this state’s history and relies on considerable memorization of principles at young (critics have argued, too young) levels.

If HB1070 (which is opposed by several education group) passes, perhaps the proposed Center for American Exceptionalism would remain only an optional offering, but since it seeks taxpayer funding and is being promoted by lawmakers who ultimately have a say over school funding, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that the center could eventually become a state-sanctioned source for educational guidance.

“You’re bringing private entities into deciding curriculum,” Dianna Miller of the Large School Group told lawmakers. “I would caution you to be very careful about all the people you want involved in statewide education.”

Indeed, there is already a process in place for this, which is what the current battle over the social studies curriculum is about. Bringing yet another entity into the mix seems unwise and unnecessary.