The Virginia Board of Education announced the implementation of new curriculum pertaining to African American studies.
The board’s decision reportedly follows recommendations from the Commission on African American History Education in the Commonwealth. Governor Ralph Northam created this commission last fall.
“Incorporating additional context about African American history into the larger historical narrative has never been more important,” stated Board of Education President Daniel Gecker. “The approval of these edits to the standards and curriculum framework begins Virginia’s effort to change the course of history and social science instruction to ensure inclusive and culturally relevant content in all grades and courses.”
According to the press release, fourth grade students will now learn about Old Point Comfort when studying state history. This addition “provides more specificity to the standard about the arrival in 1619 of the first African Americans in British North America.”
Old Point Comfort in 1619 marks the arrival of the first documented African American slaves in the colonies.
“Most importantly, these edits acknowledge and amplify the resistance, resilience, innovation and sacrifices of African Americans and their continued contributions to American society,” added Gecker.
In an interview with The Virginia Star Director of Media Relations Charles Pyle clarified that this wasn’t related to the national focus on the 1619 Project, but rather based on recommendations from Northam’s new commission.
“What you have with the board’s action yesterday is the inclusion in our standards of content recommended by the Virginia educators, historians of the state, representatives of institutions such as museums around the Commonwealth.”
Additionally, high schoolers will learn about lynchings that occurred in the state and the nation.
Virginia’s schools operate under “Standards of Learning,” which is the curriculum framework establishing the learning expectations for students. It also provides the skills acquisitions for each subject. The framework is considered the most essential content for meeting state standards.
These changes are minor; another process for instituting bigger changes begins in 2021.
Pyle explained to The Star that state law requires the board to review and revise the Standards of Learning every seven years. Since the last revisions took place in 2015, the board will begin the process for 2022’s new revisions next year.
In an interview with The Star, Republican state congressional candidate Leon Benjamin said that the board should consider what approach they’re taking in emphasizing these aspects of history.
“They need to tell the whole truth of what happened. They don’t need to make it political – I think people are intelligent enough to decipher what’s important. To play on a person’s pain or their oppression – that’s not okay. Let’s not make it seem like we’re back in the days of slavery. There’s too many accomplishments in our history to imply we haven’t progressed.”
According to the press release, further revisions will impact courses covering Virginia Studies, U.S. History to 1865, U.S. History 1865 to Present, and Virginia and U.S. History.
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