Virginia Proposes Major Changes to Social Studies Standards

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) last Friday proposed major changes to K-12 history and social studies standards.

New guide (pdf) is about teaching “all our history”: “America is exceptional but not perfect.”

“Students will learn about our Nation’s extraordinary strengths, including individual innovation, moral character, ingenuity, and risk-taking, while learning from dire times and actions that have come into direct conflict with these ideals,” the document reads.

The revised standards also require parents and teachers to be provided with “open access” to all Virginia public school instructional materials to “facilitate open and balanced discussion of difficult topics, including discrimination and racism, in the absence of personal or provide learning opportunities in the absence of political bias.”

The tone of the new guidance—in line with Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s inaugural address and his first executive order—is very different from that of the August 2022 edition (pdf). The version, drafted under the leadership of former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, includes more content on diversity and inclusion, racial justice and gender equality.

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Under Virginia law, the Board of Education is required to revise history and social science standards at least every seven years. The current version taught in Virginia public schools was implemented in 2015.

In a fact sheet sent to Virginia lawmakers on Friday afternoon and obtained by The Epoch Times, the VDOE said the 402-page August 2022 draft “tries to combine standards and curriculum frameworks and instructional guidance into one document”, “difficult for educators to understand and implement” and “out of reach for parents and families”.

Fact sheets also highlight changes in improving understanding of communism, including in grade 10 “identifying modern-day genocide, including more than 100 million victims of communist regimes” and “explaining capitalism, communism, Marxism, socialism , Authoritarianism, and the Difference Between Totalitarianism” ” in 12th grade.

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The Virginia Education Association (VEA), a teachers’ union with more than 40,000 educators in the Commonwealth, accused the new amendments of being politically motivated.

“These standards are full of overt political bias, outdated language describing enslaved people and American Indians, a highly subjective framing of American moralism and conservative ideals, racist innuendo throughout, and demands that teachers The history appears to be ‘balanced,’ VEA President James J. Fedderman said in a statement: ‘without personal or political bias’ and to limit the ‘teacher-created curriculum’ allowed in all other subject areas.

Ian Pryor, executive director of Fight for Schools, a parent rights advocacy group based in Loudoun County, disagrees: “History is a product of humanity, conflict and progress. It can be inspiring, it can be dark , and teaching and learning can be challenging.”

“These proposed reforms to history and social studies education address these challenges by providing students with an objective knowledge of historical facts and an understanding of the human nature that drives conflict and progress,” he added. “If educators get it right in the classroom Applied, it will unlock key critical thinking skills that students can use to make their own analysis and decision-making as they develop into young leaders.”

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The VDOE fact sheet mentions that the November edition includes additional content on slavery, segregation, and the civil rights movement, especially in the lower grades.

The Virginia Board of Education will review the new guidance on Thursday and is scheduled to adopt the final version in February. If approved, the revised standards will be taught in the 2024-2025 school year.

Wu Taili

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Terri Wu is a freelance writer for The Epoch Times in Washington, covering education and China-related issues. Send tips to [email protected]

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