by Madison Hirneisen
The Virginia Board of Education this week is beginning a series of public hearings on the most recent draft of the state’s history and social science standards – the latest step in a process to revise the state’s history standards, versions of which have faced criticism in recent months.
The first of six public hearings on the state’s new history and social science standards will take place Monday at 7pm in Williamsburg. Throughout this week and early next week, officials will host a slate of hearings in Mount Vernon, Charlottesville, Roanoke, Abingdon and Farmville.
Under state law, Virginia’s history and social studies standards must be reviewed every seven years. The first draft of the standards were initially unveiled last August, and a second revised draft was published in November. The third and latest version of the proposed standards – which incorporates content from the August and November drafts – was unveiled January and adopted by the Virginia Board of Education in February.
The Board of Education say the most recent revised standards includes new content that tells a “more complete story of the commonwealth,” but critics have voiced concern about mistakes and omissions in the draft approved by the board in February.
Specifically, educational groups have raised concern the term “fascism” has been removed from the latest version of the standards, arguing it is key to understanding World War II. Additionally, education groups have noted the latest draft contains “several chronological errors and inaccuracies,” including the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 are included in a content section about the Cold War.
“The Cold War ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and has nothing to do with 9/11,” the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium, Virginia ASCD, the American Historical Association, the National Council for Social Studies and the Virginia Geographic Alliance wrote in a January letter.
In the same letter, the organizations wrote the standards include “an excessive amount of required content that cannot be reasonably taught in a given school year,” arguing the standards will lead to an increased emphasis on “rote memorization” instead of deeper learning.
Critics have also raised concern about the standards removing Indigenous Peoples’ Day from the list of holidays students will learn about alongside Columbus Day. In 2021, President Joe Biden became the first president to proclaim Indigenous People’s Day. Several states and cities have moved to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day.
In response to this concern, the Virginia Department of Education wrote in an FAQ section on its website the “holidays referenced in the draft standards are consistent with the officially recognized holidays” in the Code of Virginia. Currently, Virginia’s code does not include Indigenous People’s Day.
During a town hall event on CNN last week, Youngkin defended the history standards, saying they “teach all of our history – the good and the bad.”
Each of the hearings scheduled for this week and next begin at 7 p.m. The hearings will be held at the following locations:
March 13: Jamestown Settlement – 2110 Jamestown Rd, Williamsburg
March 14: George Washington’s Mount Vernon – 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mount Vernon
March 15: Piedmont Community College – 501 College Dr, Charlottesville
March 16: O. Winston Link & History Museum of Western Virginia – 101 Shenandoah Ave NE, Roanoke
March 20: Southwest Higher Education Center – 1 Partnership Circle, Abingdon
March 21: Robert Russa Moton Museum – 900 Griffin Blvd, Farmville
Virginians can also submit comments online via a Public Comment Form on the Virginia Department of Education’s website.
The department anticipates the 2023 History and Social Science Standards of Learning will be adopted by the Board of Education in April. The new standards are expected to be applied during the 2024-2025 school year.
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Madison Hirneisen is a staff reporter covering Virginia and Maryland for The Center Square. Madison previously covered California for The Center Square out of Los Angeles, but recently relocated to the DC area. Her reporting has appeared in several community newspapers and The Washington Times.
Photo “History Class” by Thirdman.