Aug 22, 2022 - News

Virginia's fight over new history standards

Illustration of a cursor hovering over a history book, about to click "Edit" from a drop down menu.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration has enlisted a conservative think tank to review the state’s new history and social studies standards.

Why it matters: The standards will dictate what and how Virginia students are taught about history and society for years to come.

What’s happening: At the urging of Youngkin’s administration, the governor’s appointees to the Board of Education voted last week to delay public hearings to make time for potential changes.

  • The learning standards, which undergo review every seven years, are a product of more than a year of work by history and education experts.
  • The draft standards “include an increased emphasis on historically marginalized groups,” per VPM News.

Youngkin attacked the new standards last week in an interview with Fox News for eliminating a requirement that students be taught George Washington is “Father of our Country.”

  • The Department of Education has since clarified that the reference was removed by mistake in a copy-and-paste error.

What they’re saying: Jillian Balow, Youngkin’s state superintendent of public instruction, said technical issues and content errors are reason enough to merit a monthlong delay.

  • She told VPM News she was consulting with the Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank, to identify and address problems.
  • The institute, which backs charter schools and reviews testing standards, published an op-ed praising Youngkin’s executive order banning critical race theory in classrooms.

The other side: Democrats expressed outrage over the delay.

  • They say the errors Youngkin’s administration has identified are all technical in nature and could easily be addressed internally by education department staff.
  • “These standards must not be whitewashed,” state Sen. Louise Lucas, a Democrat from Portsmouth, said during a press conference Friday.

Context: Political meddling in school lesson plans in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s resulted in textbooks that glorified the Confederacy and described enslaved people as happy.

What’s next: The Board of Education plans to revisit the standards next month.

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