The Youngkin administration asked the Virginia Board of Education to delay reviewing new history and social science standards, a necessary first step that includes public hearings. On Wednesday, in the first meeting with a majority of Youngkin-appointed members, the board agreed to delay accepting the standards for first review until September, although board President Daniel Gecker expressed concern about falling behind on a timeline to approve the standards.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow asked for the delay, saying that would allow the five new Youngkin-appointed members more time to get up to speed and to address technical errors like the accidental omission of language that referred to George Washington as the “Father of our country.”
Balow cited other examples.
“Plessy versus Ferguson is missing from the context of the rise of Jim Crow. That’s really important to our whole history, and we heard today around the table and from the governor that that’s really important to everyone. So I want to make sure that before these go on the street […] going across the commonwealth and holding community meetings with what may be hundreds, maybe thousands, of people that we have a document to put in front of them that is as close to a final draft as we can get so that we aren’t asking the commonwealth to weigh in on typos or to weigh in on organizational errors,” Balow said.
On Friday, Senate education Democrats held a press conference criticizing the administration for the delay.
Senator Ghazala Hashmi said, “I want to reiterate: the Virginia Department of Education has had the proposed revised 2022 history and social science standards of learning for seven months already. The superintendent recently mentioned that VDOE needs more time to edit the document. Well, these issues of spelling and surface editing are the responsibility of department staff and these should have been easily made several weeks ago. If surface editing issues are really what’s behind the delay, then I question: what has VDOE been doing all these long summer months?”
Hashmi said that’s a diversion from what she suspects to be the administration’s actual goal: “That is to revise the standards through this specific lens of the Youngkin administration, its corporate partners, and its special interest groups. Their intentionality is to whitewash our history books and to not allow for a more full representation of the rich diversity that is a part of our American heritage and history.”
Hashmi questioned why the administration had asked conservative think-tank the Fordham Institute to review the standards: “What is the purpose of adding the Fordham Institute at this post-midnight hour when the work of developing our standards is already complete?”
She said she agrees with Gecker that the VDOE has had enough time to review the standards.
“The public is ready to review these changes. Our schools and our teachers are ready to begin that process of implementation. We have to go forward,” Hashmi said.
Governor Glenn Youngkin explained some of his thinking about the delay at a Friday press conference. The Cavalier Daily reported Thursday that Youngkin appointee to the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors Bert Ellis hosted a debate featuring a eugenics supporter in 1974. In response to a question, Youngkin said he hadn’t seen the report and couldn’t comment, but did criticize The Daily and others for wanting to remove Thomas Jefferson’s name from UVA.
Youngkin said, “One of the reasons why I was so supportive of delaying the progressing of our history review in the commonwealth is that we have to just get past this idea that everyone was perfect. They were imperfect, but they were also our founding fathers.”
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