The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has published an updated draft of the History and Social Science Standards ahead of a Thursday board of education meeting. Beginning in the summer, Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration called for multiple delays to address technical concerns and to get input from voices that may not have contributed to the document under the previous Democratic administration.
“Every graduate from Virginia’s K–12 schools will possess a robust understanding of the places, people, events and ideas that comprise the history of Virginia, the United States and world civilizations. Our students will learn from the rise and fall of civilizations across time, so that we may pursue and maintain government and economic systems that have led to human achievement. The Virginia standards are grounded in the foundational principles and actions of great individuals who preceded us so that we may learn from them as we strive to maintain our political liberties and personal freedoms and thrive as a nation,” states an introduction to the standards.
The standards document is a broader document that will be supplemented by more detailed curriculum frameworks that haven’t been published yet. In the previous version published at the beginning of the summer, a technical error led to the omission of wording calling George Washington “Father of Our Country” and James Madison “Father of Our Country.” The new standards include the two phrases, and also include references to Thomas Jefferson, Nat Turner, Robert E. Lee, slavery, Jim Crow laws, capitalism versus communism, and former Governor Doug Wilder.
A section for 12th grade focused on contemporary America includes “exploring the accomplishments of innovators and heroes who affected America and the world during this era (e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Height, Marian Anderson, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan” followed by “detailing the key events and change makers of the Civil Rights Movement in America and Virginia including Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, John Lewis, Medgar Evers, Ralph Abernathy, boycotts, Selma, Massive Resistance.”
The introduction lists foundational principles for the standards: “Individual liberty and representative government are cornerstones of the American way of life. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are remarkable documents that provide the freedoms and framework for our constitutional republic. We aspire to live up to the Founders’ ideals for a society that recognizes all individuals are created equal. Enshrined on our national seal is the phrase ‘E Pluribus Unum’ – ‘Out of Many, One.’ Immigrants from around the world have come to our shores seeking freedom and opportunity to build a better life and have contributed to our communities and added to the rich history of achievement in our country. Free enterprise, property rights and the rule of law enable an economic system that allocates assets through free markets and competition and fosters innovation, opportunity and efficiency. Centralized government planning in the form of socialism or communist political systems is incompatible with democracy and individual freedoms. America is exceptional but not perfect.”
“The rights codified in the United States and Virginia constitutions and the Bill of Rights provide for individual freedoms that place a responsibility on current and future generations of Americans to engage in the political process with civility and fulfill their civic duty. Over the ages, civilizations have grown, prospered and vanished. Every student should understand our Great American Experiment is not guaranteed forever. As Benjamin Franklin warned citizens over 200 years ago, ‘you have a republic… if you can keep it,” the list adds.
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