Want to know why South Dakota needs to do more to help American Indian students get into our public universities? Consider this table (click to enlarge) on the percentages of Native students from the high schools with the most Native graduates who enroll in Board of Regents institutions:

Education at South Dakota's public universities may not be for everyone, but it is probably for more than 4.1% of Indian graduates from Pine Ridge, or 1.1% of Indian graduates from Sisseton.

Last week I discussed the South Dakota Board of Regents' report on placement outcomes for their graduates. Noticing that American Indians make up 8.9% of South Dakota's population but only 2.2% of our public university graduates, I suggested that any major initiative by the Regents to meet South Dakota's workforce needs should start with an effort to recruit more Indian students.

A couple of eager readers pointed out that the Regents are a step ahead of me. At their December meeting, the Regents also received "Like Two Different Worlds," a study of American Indian perspectives on higher education in South Dakota. 49 American Indian students from NSU, BHSU, SDSU, and USD participated in focus groups to discuss what keeps Indians from coming to university, what challenges they face at university, and what helps the smart, persistent, and lucky few push through to graduation. The study includes recommendations for Regental action to bring more Indians into higher education.

One obvious problem is money. The crushing poverty of the reservation makes higher education unaffordable for many Indian families. Increasing tuition and cuts to scholarships don't help, but even with financial support, many Indian students find it hard to leave home when their families need every dollar and every worker to feed the kids. Even if they get tuition assistance, many Indian students face campus life in dire financial straits. They can't count on any financial help from home the way many white students can. Having grown up in poverty, Indian students often lack basic personal budgeting skills that the Anglo culture takes for granted. That lack of money and money skills isolates Indian students (it's tough to be part of the gang when can't just head to Dough Trader for pizza on a lark), stresses them out, and drives many students out of school.

A deeper cultural problem is what I might call the tension of the tiospaye. The Lakota/Dakota sense of extended family creates a healthy sense of identity and community. The commitment to the tiospaye holds Indian tribes together in the midst of hardship. It motivates many students involved in the study to go to university and get their degrees so they can better support their families, serve their tribes, and set an example for their fellow Indians.

But the ties of the tiospaye also pull young Indians away from university. As mentioned above, young Indians feel an obligation to stay home and work for their families. Leaving for university feels like abandoning the family. The obligation and guilt Indian students feel is reinforced every time they visit home... and as one student in the study points out, those visits often take place in grim, powerful circumstances:

…if someone’s aunt dies or someone’s mom dies or someone’s brother dies – I mean, the reservation, it’s not an easy place to live. There’s a lot of death on the reservations. And you know when someone dies you obviously you go back to their funeral…and when you go back then you’re going to be like talking to those people again. And then you’re going to realize you miss them. And they are going to miss you, and like you said you depend on them, they depend on you…I think that’s why a lot of Native Americans don’t stay in college, is because they don’t necessarily feel that support or because they feel like they’re needed at home to support those other people. I just think that there’s a lot of like – to me, an image of hands like grasping at people and like pulling them back [student, "Like Two Different Worlds," South Dakota Board of Regents, May 2013].

Remember: our current Congresswoman left college in 1994 when her father died, and we don't begrudge her that choice. Indian students face grim choices like that in their extended families on the reservation more frequently.

The hands of the tiospaye, "grasping at people and... pulling them back," can also push Indian students away. Many students in the focus groups reported that going to university earns them resentment and alienation from family and friends back home. Rather than winning respect, their decision to go to university earns them reactions like these:

"...You're not better than us... You stay here. This is what we've all done."

...some of our friends refused to talk to me....

"...oh, just because you got an education, doesn't mean s---" [students, BOR, May 2013]

One student likens that resentment to the old-time anger at the "hang-around-the-fort" Indians. Another notes that the whole Western notion of higher education and credentialing doesn't fit with Lakota culture. Even our noble universities are imperialist institutions, and Indian students attending them will face accusations of surrender to the Wasicu.

That rejection painfully isolates students coming from the tiospaye. That close-knit community is all that they are. They go off to university and find themselves outsiders in the white-man's world of Spearfish or Brookings. But they come home to find their own families accusing them of belonging more to that white-man's world. To feel like an outsider everywhere and at home nowhere is too great a burden for many young people to take.

The Board of Regents will not single-handedly solve any deep cultural tensions. But the Regents did approve acting on the following recommendations to be acted on immediately:

  1. Creating a central office position for an American Indian liaison to high schools, American Indian students, and their families. This outreach would go beyond the usual one-time high school visits from admissions office reps. This outreach would include much more follow-up, meetings with students and families explaining the basics of university life, and helping American Indian students fill out their applications.
  2. Coordinating system-wide efforts to keep Indian students in university. The specific programs the Regents want to use and expand are scholarships, emergency campus funds, special Native orientation programs, summer bridge programs, and (one of the best suggestions) work-study jobs that will send American Indian students out as recruiters.
  3. System-wide professional development activities for American Indian student service specialists.
  4. Reviews of mission statements, inclusive language, and zero-racism-tolerance policies.

The Regents also approved three longer-term actions:

  1. Developing an advisory committee of high school principals and/or guidance counselors to help the Regents develop better American Indian outreach programs and to share among high schools practices that help get more Indian students ready for college.
  2. Studying American Indian recruitment and retention more closely.
  3. Strengthening relations between the Regents and South Dakota's tribes... which is the vaguest statement among the recommendations. I wonder... shall we require that one Regent be a tribal member?

If we hear any opposition to efforts by the Regents to recruit, enroll, and graduate more American Indian students, it will likely couched in opposition to "affirmative action" and special favors for certain groups. But restoring scholarships, helping Indian students fill out their apps and FAFSAs, and offering support networks on campus aren't special favors. They are efforts to give our American Indian citizens the same support that students from the dominant culture already get from other sources.

The Regents are headed in the right direction on outreach to American Indian students. The Legislature and the Governor should support them with the resources necessary to bring up those enrollment percentages from Pine Ridge, Sisseton, and other South Dakota communities.


Following the bad precedent it set just before members of the Class of 2013 collected their diplomas, the Chamberlain School District has confirmed its misguided and marginalizing decision to keep a Lakota honor song out of its commencement ceremony for the Class of 2014—and, the School Board President implies, any future commencement ceremony.

The four veteran Chamberlain School Board members (Rebecca Reimer, Leanne Larson, Jay Blum, and Dallas Thompson) voted against including the honor song. None of the board's three newcomers opposed the song, with Foster Iverson and Marcel Felicia voting in favor of including the song and Casey Hutmacher citing an unexplained "conflict of interest" to abstain.

Reimer, the School Board President, is upset about the controversy. She made her frustration clear in a post-vote commentary shared in the nearest daily newspaper, Mitchell's Daily Republic:

Reimer said the honor song discussion was not about the students, academics or even the song itself.

“It’s about control and power. It’s about control and power,” she said. “I’m extremely disappointed in a handful of people” [Jessica Giard, "Chamberlain School Board rejects Indian honor song again," The Daily Republic, 2013.12.09].

This controversy is indeed about control and power.

It's about using the power of elected office to control who is and isn't allowed to speak. (For the record, the "isn't" category last week included Marcel Felicia, the board's only Native American member. This week, some audience members questioned the lack of student speakers on the board's agenda.)

It's about using the power of a colonizing history and a numerical majority to control the parameters of any so-called compromise.

It's about using the power of perceived authority to control the perceptions of your opponents, minimizing them as just a "handful of people" or demonizing them as being full of issues from a substandard home life.

It's about using the power of entrenched institutional racism to control the entire framework of the conversation. It's about flaunting that controlling power by characterizing majority-defined token efforts as benevolent gifts to the marginalized ...

“Our district has gone to great lengths to build relationships with the Native American population of Chamberlain School District,” [Reimer] said. “In fact, we’ve done more for this particular group than any other group in the 11 years I’ve served on the board” [Giard, 2013.12.09].

by blaming opponents' criticism, not the initially marginalizing action, for being harmful ...

“Here we are again voting on a topic which is meant to honor all and bring people together. Instead it’s dividing a community,” [Reimer] said [Giard, 2013.12.09].

and by serving as the self-imposed arbiter of when the matter is settled ...

“This agenda item has been exhausted and after tonight it’s done,” [Reimer] said [Giard, 2013.12.09].

The Chamberlain School Board majority (with the vocal support of Superintendent Debra Johnson and tacit approval of Principal Allan Bertram) has inexplicably dug in its heels on this issue for the sole purpose of asserting and protecting its own power and control. This majority apparently believes its own all-important power and control are so tenuous as to be threatened by a single song.

Though it's a different handful than Board President Reimer's, I'm also extremely disappointed in a handful of people. The citizens of the Chamberlain School District, who elected the handful of people I'm thinking of, should be extremely disappointed in them, too.


Without even getting to a vote, administrators in Chamberlain have put themselves back squarely in the middle of contentious issue: whether to include a Lakota honor song at Chamberlain High's commencement ceremony. If the debate continues along the lines that it did this past spring, this central South Dakota school district risks appearances of disinterest or discrimination toward its Native American students, who made up 39% of its high school population last school year.

The school board postponed a vote on the honor song question Monday night after board member Marcel Felicia, new to the body since last spring's controversy, spoke about the value of including the song. During Felicia's speech, board president Rebecca Reimer believed that the new member had improperly solicited a response from community members in attendance. Reimer warned Felicia about this breach of decorum, and the board president left the room for a private conversation with Felicia and Chamberlain Superintendent Debra Johnson during an ensuing 10-minute meeting recess.

Though Johnson won't discuss the contents of that private conversation, she uses language that's typical of a representative of the establishment who's seeking to silence a troubling voice of dissent:

Johnson, the superintendent, said Reimer was telling Felicia that he was acting outside agreed-upon decorum for board meetings.

“He had asked a question of the audience and was asking for a response,” Johnson said. “That’s just not the protocol we use in our meetings. If people want to speak, they are listed on the agenda. We need to follow the procedures” [Jon Walker, "Chamberlain pursues 'compromise' with Lakota song for graduation," That Sioux Falls Paper, 2013.11.27]

Though words like 'protocol' and 'decorum' sound non-threatening and egalitarian ("Nothing personal; everybody has to work within the system"), they hide the fact that systems are often set up very deliberately to advance the interests of the historically advantaged and minimize the chance that anyone can topple conventional practice, even when conventional practice may be unfair or may otherwise warrant change.

Unfortunately, an awkward insistence on decorum, tradition, protocol and procedures is not new to Chamberlain's debate over the high school graduation ceremony.

In May, when James Cadwell brought a request for the honor song to the school board, responses ranged from a stick-with-the-status-quo sidestep from Superintendent Johnson to board member comments that included some rambling from the then-Chairperson and a thinly veiled indictment of some Native students' home lives from another board member.

Now, Johnson says she and principal Allan Bertram have been talking with students ... talking about alternatives to including the song:

“Compromise is the word,” Johnson said Tuesday night.

“The principal and I have been working with Native American students as to what they might like to do if the honor song is not at graduation,” she said. “If not at graduation, what would they like to do? That’s what the board is looking at, the board allowing the honor song, but maybe not at the graduation setting” [Walker, 2013.11.27]

Compromise is indeed the word, but I think Johnson is confusing two of the word's meanings.

Johnson seems to think that she's working with students toward 'compromise' by this definition:

com-pro-mise [kom-pruh-mahyz] noun
1. a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands [dictionary.com].

And such compromise is among the many virtues one might hope to teach high school students as they learn about interacting with each other and the world around them. Such compromise is about each side working to understand the position of the other and also about each side taking a step away from its respective self-valuing perspective and toward a shared and mutually agreed-upon outcome.

However, when one side is setting all the ground rules and the other simply must find an alternative that fits within those rules as already established, the more accurate definition of 'compromise' is this one:

com-pro-mise [kom-pruh-mahyz] noun
4. an endangering, especially of reputation; exposure to danger, suspicion, etc.: a compromise of one's integrity [dictionary.com].

That kind of compromise—the kind that asks those who already lack agency within the system to compromise their beliefs, compromise their identity, compromise their culture—is one that's been taught to generations of Native Americans in our state and our nation. It deserves no continued voice from superintendents, principals, school boards, or anyone else in a diverse society.

Felicia, the school board member who earned a 10-minute time-out on Monday night, shows that he understands the difference between seeking an agreement or common understanding and asking Lakota students to defer the controlling majority. He questions, as do I, whether either compromise really applies when the question is fundamentally one of inclusion and cultural respect:

Felicia said he was puzzled by Johnson’s reference to a compromise.

“What is there to compromise [first definition]? The song is played to honor all senior students. Why should you compromise [second definition] that?” [Walker, 2013.11.27]

The board is scheduled to take a vote on including the honor song at its December 9 meeting, provided no one does anything as indecorous as asking for public commentary on the matter while in session.


A January Institute of Medicine report reinforces a series of studies finding the United States spending much more on health care than any other nation but getting much worse results. IoM's summary identifies four major explanations for our shorter lives and poorer health:

  • Health systems. Unlike its peer countries, the United States has a relatively large uninsured population and more limited access to primary care. Americans are more likely to find their health care inaccessible or unaffordable and to report lapses in the quality and safety of care outside of hospitals.
  • Health behaviors. Although Americans are currently less likely to smoke and may drink alcohol less heavily than people in peer countries, they consume the most calories per person, have higher rates of drug abuse, are less likely to use seat belts, are involved in more traffic accidents that involve alcohol, and are more likely to use firearms in acts of violence.
  • Social and economic conditions. Although the income of Americans is higher on average than in other countries, the United States also has higher levels of poverty (especially child poverty) and income inequality and lower rates of social mobility. Other countries are outpacing the United States in the education of young people, which also affects health. And Americans benefit less from safety net programs that can buffer the negative health effects of poverty and other social disadvantages.
  • Physical environments. U.S. communities and the built environment are more likely than those in peer countries to be designed around automobiles, and this may discourage physical activity and contribute to obesity [Institute of Medicine, "Report Brief: U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health," 2013.01.09]

In other words, if Americans followed practices and policies that the Madville Times regularly suggests—cover the uninsured, put down your booze and guns, fix poverty and income inequality, invest more in education, and build communities to favor walking and biking—Americans would live better and longer. Alternatively, living along the lines of Dakota War College or The Right Side will make you sicker and deader.

Another reader of the IoM report suggests we might want to act less like John Wayne and John Galt and more like Jean Chrétien:

One major impediment is that the US, which emphasises self-reliance, individualism and free markets, is resistant to anything that even appears to hint at socialism. Interestingly, as a group, classically liberal nations like the US and the UK – free market-oriented with less regulation, tax and government services – are the least healthy among wealthy democracies.

By contrast, social democratic countries such as Sweden – in which the state emphasises full employment, income protection, housing, education, health and social insurance – enjoy better overall health, although health inequalities within these nations are not always the smallest.

Debates about the relative merits of "cut-throat" US versus "cuddly" Swedish capitalism contend that there are important trade-offs between economic growth and innovation on the one hand, and growing inequality, high poverty and a weak social safety net on the other. Unfortunately, these debates often fail to factor in our health. That needs to change [Laudon Aron, "Why Is the Rich US in Such Poor Health?" New Scientist, 2013.07.15].

It's tough to innovate and generate wealth when you're sick or dead. If you want America to be economically competitive, you've got to pursue not just health care reform but a change in the American mindset that would allow a panoply of changes in public policy and private behavior.

Related [08:20 CDT]: If you're going to the Brookings Summer Arts Festival this weekend, remember that 6th Street from Main Street west to festival site Pioneer Park is all torn to heck. But festival vendor Connie Balcom says you'll be fine if you just park your car elsewhere and walk:

"I don't think that road is going to be a big fat pain," Balcom said. "For the person driving their car down that road, yes. But not after they once get here."

For those who don't want to mess with construction on 6th Street, festival organizers have set up a series of shuttles around the city where you can park and be taken to Pioneer Park for free [Hailey Higgins, "Brookings Art Festival," KELOLand.com, 2013.07.12].

And remember: walking will help you burn off that deep-fried alligator and funnel cakes!


David Newquist hopes his one-year-old grandson can find his way out of Aberdeen and South Dakota. Dr. Newquist deems South Dakota hopeless for Democrats of ambition and good conscience. As usual, his full essay is worth reading, as it ties many issues together. Here are some key passages:

...South Dakota is mired down by prejudicial, bigoted attitudes, and people who want productive and contributory lives come to the realization that they must either move or resign themselves to hoping that they can make changes that make such lives possible.

...Accomplishments in academics and professional life outside of South Dakota are lethal, particularly if those places carry the aura of prestige. Many South Dakotans hate accomplishment and performance that exceed anything that might raise the level of expectations in South Dakota. The GOP has been successful in fanning that resentful sense of inferiority into a political rage that wins elections. If you hold degrees from institutions that demonstrate excellence and you manage to accomplish things in high places, you have committed the unforgivable sin against South Dakota. Unless the state needs someone of such attainment and accomplishment to go to Washington to bolster the federal subsidies on which the state depends for its existence, it will not elect such a person to Congress.

...And there is the matter of opportunity in South Dakota. The Governor actually went to the Mall of America to try to recruit young people to the state. There are number of groups touting life in South Dakota and attempting to lure young people to return. I spent the past week with a large number of young people who have left South Dakota. When telling them of the efforts to lure young people, the inevitable reply is, "To do what?" One of the emigrants said it was her intention to return, but after the elections of 2004 and 2010, she said the state showed an aspect of life that is simply too discouraging. She is among those who started her education in the state, but finished out-of-state. She said there is no opportunity in the state to use her degree, and the fact that she earned hers out-of-state would always be a demerit. She will build her life where she has opportunity to do so [David Newquist, "Where Are All the Young Democrats?" Northern Valley Beacon, 2013.05.20].

I sometimes feel like we South Dakota Democrats are bowling alone. Can we Dems get a league together when culture and demographics and crony-corporate political money keep busting our balls?

I invite my readers to submit their signs of hope for building a state where Dr. Newquist would not be afraid to see his grandson live and work.


Chamberlain correspondent and Indian rights activist James Cadwell sends distressing news about his local school district's intolerance of its Indian constituents' cultural practices. Cadwell reports that, after three years of requests, the Chamberlain school district continues to forbid the inclusion of a Native American honor song in its 2013 high school commencement exercise. Cadwell says the board cites religious reasons, even though the honor song is not a religious expression, and even though the district opens its commencement exercises with a prayer.

Worse, the Chamberlain board appears to be increasing restrictions on expressions of any cultural identity other than majority White. American Indian students often wear feathers on their caps and star quilts on their shoulders. Some parents tell Cadwell that they are hearing from the school that such expressions of Indian identity may be quashed at this year's commencement exercise as "interruptions" that may result in disciplinary action.

If Cadwell's sources are correct, Chamberlain's actions suggest a manifestation of White Tea Party fear. The country changes. Our neighbors look less and less like ourselves. When America stops looking the way we have envisioned it since our youth, we get antsy. In our desire to keep America the same, we react in negative ways that will make it harder to deal with the inevitable change.

Cadwell's full press release follows:

Chamberlain School Board and Administration again refuses to allow a Lakota/Dakota honor song to be sung for all of the graduating seniors.

Not unlike other ceremonies and songs sung during the event, the honor song is to acknowledge the accomplishments the entire senior class. This is the third year in a row that the school system has rejected this effort to bring the communities of Fort Thompson and Lower Brule together to add additional celebratory efforts to the occasion.

Over the years the school board has stated that they do not allow religion to be part of the ceremony. They are obviously confusing the honor song with a religious ceremony. The honor song is exactly that, a song that acknowledges the efforts of all the students graduating and encourages them to continue their education. Yet the school system has opened the ceremony with a prayer for years. In addition, school concerts have included religious songs as part of the program.

They have said that they do not alter the graduation ceremony but have allowed for exception every year by acknowledging different entities or people for their accomplishments. Most recently they said they needed to see the song in english before they could allow it to be sung, but have since reneged on that commitment of what appeared to be an effort to include the honor song as part of the graduation ceremony.

Nearly 40% of the students that attend Chamberlain Schools are identified as American Indian. In some class rooms the American Indian population is over 50%, yet it would appear that school administration struggles with efforts to acknowledge the cultural diversity in the school district.

Every year Chamberlain receives hundreds of thousands of impact aide dollars from the federal government for every American Indian student enrolled in the school system.

The most recent policy issued by the school system has been interpreted by American Indian parent as being further restrictive. The parents as part of their tradition have placed eagle feathers on their students caps in recognition of the students efforts. In addition star quilts that are now used to replace the buffalo robe are placed over the students shoulders also in recognition for the accomplishment. Parents are being told if these types of efforts are done, the party responsible for the effort and or the student will be removed from the graduation exercise. The parents are also told disciplinary action could be taken toward the student.

In light of the most recent statistics of the graduation rate for American Indian students going from a very low rate of 64% to and even lower rate of 43% nationally it would appear more effort should be made to incorporate American Indian traditions into the school system to help these Native American students with their cultural needs. With the recent adoption of the Oceti Sakowin (Council of Seven Fires) standards on July 25, 2011, it is apparent that the South Dakota Department of Education sees the value in cultural understanding. Schools are to begin implementation of these standards by the fall of 2013. These standards have been in place for nearly two years across the state. Yet few schools are preparing for these changes that could be a contributing factor in improved race relations better test scores for American Indian student and most of all an increased graduation rate [James Cadwell, press release, 2013.04.20].


Can the church and South Dakota keep her?

University of Sioux Falls student Dannika Nash points to the hopeful example of 5,000 young people in Sioux Falls cheering marrige equality:

I got to go to the Macklemore concert on Friday night. If you want to hear about how that went, ask me, seriously, I want to talk about it until I die. The whole thing was great; but the best part was when Macklemore sang “Same Love.” Augustana’s gym was filled to the ceiling with 5,000 people, mostly aged 18-25, and decked out in thrift store gear (American flag bro-tanks, neon Nikes, MC Hammer pants. My Cowboy boyfriend wore Cowboy boots…not ironically….). The arena was brimming with excitement and adrenaline during every song, but when he started to play “Same Love,” the place about collapsed. Why? While the song is popular everywhere, no one, maybe not even Macklemore, feels its true tension like we do in Sioux Falls, South Dakota....

Before the song, Macklemore spoke really simple words along the lines of: “Hey, you can all have your own opinions on how we treat gay people in this country, but this is mine.” And I held my breath in anticipation of some kind of uproar or walk-out…but the crowd cheered louder than they had yet. In our red state, in our conservative little city, the 5,000 young people in that arena wanted to hear about marriage equality [Dannika Nash, "An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation," blog, 2013.04.07].

Nash reacts to the "hateful preaching" she's heard in her church upbringing. She says that hateful preaching drives 70% of twenty-somethings away from church.

Nash also points to a techno-cultural phenomenon that could keep those young people from leaving conservative South Dakota:

So many of us were brought up in churches and Christian homes, and even if we weren’t, we’ve experienced the traditional Christian culture that just resonates from South Dakota’s prairie land. We know conservatism; we know tradition. But we also have Twitter, we watch SNL, we listen to Macklemore, and we read Tina Fey. We’re more in touch with the rest of the country than the Midwest has ever been. Some of us love the church and some of us hate it, but there aren’t too many people for whom it’s irrelevant [Nash, 2013.04.07].

There's an interesting question: if modern media technology can help South Dakotans feel more connected with a more tolerant national culture, will that give their progressive values enough reinforcement to make living in conservative-soaked South Dakota bearable? Or will that ever-increasing exposure to the big world out there simply entice them all the more quickly to the bluer climes where they can enjoy the better-than-Twitter huggable company of like-minded neighbors?


David Newquist thinks hard and writes big. His latest analysis of anti-intellectualism and the decline of progressivism in South Dakota deserves your attention. Permit me to focus on just one interesting element of his essay, an example of how our intolerance for real scholarship drives away economic and cultural opportunities.

Dr. Newquist says that after the 2004 election, a group wanted to establish a think tank to study political and cultural issues on the Northern Plains. Aberdeen made the short list and drew scrutiny from researchers seeking a good location for the project. Our visitors did not like what they found:

Aberdeen fit many of the requirements that had been established for the the successful operation of the unit, and the people who generated the funding leaned toward it as a good location. However, the market researchers also noted some detractions. The one that surprised and puzzled me was how they interpreted the discussion board on the local newspaper's website. The discussion board was notorious for being frequented, often dominated, by trolls, and most readers dismissed it and ignored it. The researchers did not, but cited it as the symptom of a serious problem. I commented that although the postings by the trolls were repulsive and offensive, they were the work of a very small minority and certainly did not represent the community at large. One of the team members said that the fact that the major news medium in the community allows commenters to publish insult, abuse, and often libels under the guise of freedom of speech signals an attitude toward intellectual work. He pointed out that many news organizations invite critical comment, but exercise their Fourth Estate right to edit out the malicious, the salacious, and the libelous. But beyond that, the offensive comments are a part of the community, and what organization would, in effect, elect to build its headquarters near a sewage lagoon? However, the state of South Dakota was characterized as having social and political attitudes that were not compatible with an intellectual enterprise and Aberdeen fully demonstrated those attitudes. In the end, the northern plains states did not get a think tank devoted to their study and development. Some of the funding and materials went to a university library, and some went to universities to the east that had projects underway to examine the great plains. Serious consideration of the Buffalo Commons is not done by anyone who lives there [David Newquist, "The Land of Infinite WTF," Northern Valley Beacon, 2012.11.17].

Social and political attitudes... not compatible with an intellectual enterprise... uff da. That's not the text we want on our Chamber of Commerce flyers. But it's what outsiders see when they survey our civic-scape.

Impolite language in the blogosphere is a symptom, not the cause, of South Dakota's off-putting anti-intellectualism. But Newquist reminds us that our words matter. We must speak in ways that educate, not denigrate. There are some people who need to be knocked down a peg (maybe even me on occasion!), but we must critique each other and our actions with the aim of making South Dakota better, not excluding or wrecking certain individuals. We must speak in pursuit of the greater good.


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