Virginians from numerous communities – including but not limited to Sikh, Jewish, Black, Native American, Asian American, historians, educators, students, and parents – gave over 4 hours of public testimony, submitted thousands of emails, and rallied outside during the VBOE meeting on 11/17 demanding the Board reject Superintendent Balow’s “Youngkin standards” (November) and preserve truth in education. These public actions pressured the majority Youngkin-appointed Board to reject the November draft for first review.
Keep Truth and Democracy in our Public Education!
BUT, now the VBOE wants the Superintendent to combine the Youngkin standards with the original draft – which would be like mixing oil and water.
- The November and August documents have fundamentally different goals, approaches, and values.
- During the November meeting, DOE staff said Virginians identified two main improvements for the 2015 SOLs: (1) understand the social impacts and drivers of history, and (2) include communities and perspectives that were historically excluded. The August draft was developed to accomplish those goals.
- The Superintendent, however, developed the Youngkin standards without considering the 2015 SOLs. They also removed content (new and existing) and flexibility for teachers to teach students how to consider diverse communities as part of American history.
Hamkae Center opposes this for two major reasons:
1) The Youngkin SOL preface and standards should not inform our state’s K-12 history classes at all.
They explicitly continue to exclude communities and teach a limited perspective.
- LGBTQ communities were removed and most of the new and existing AAPI history is missing, and Juneteenth was deleted.
- Despite including a heading called “Expansion, Civil War, and Reconstruction,” Youngkin’s standards hardly address Reconstruction at all. The few included standards are broad and minimizing, with an emphasis on White political leaders or passive voice with no actors.
- Content that was taught in Virginia for decades was also taken out, such as India and China in 3rd grade, and Indigenous leaders like Chief Powhatan and Pocahontas.
They are not age appropriate, especially for K-3 students. K-3 standards focused on concepts and topics that are not developmentally appropriate for K-3 students, such as the Code of Hammurabi, Sic semper tyrannis, and voter registration requirements.
2) The Superintendent has not been transparent in this process and cannot faithfully make unbiased SOLs that respect Virginian students, educators, and communities.
- The Youngkin standards were created with feedback and comments from out-of-state actors with known political agendas, and ignored the existing feedback from Department of Education staff, hundreds of Virginia educators, parents, students, historians, professors, museums, and over 5,000 public comments.
- Sup. Balow publicly apologized for calling indigenous Virginians “immigrants,” but did not address the other issues and communities that the public named.
- While Balow confirmed that Sheila Byrd Carmichael – an outside consultant associated with the Fordham institute – took the lead on the Youngkin SOL revisions instead of DOE staff, she refuses to release the names of organizations she consulted to create the Youngkin standards.
Take action to keep truth and democracy in public education! Send a message to Virginia’s education leaders* and tell them you STILL oppose the Youngkin standards and do not want content from this document approved.
Demand that the Board vote for “first review” of the original August draft at their first meeting in 2023, AND
Demand that the Superintendent tell us who she worked with by January 10th, 2023.
Tell the Board to reject Youngkin's SOLs!
Students and teachers in Virginia public schools are in danger of having to use a history and social science curriculum (SOL) that is racist, factually inaccurate, and developmentally age-inappropriate. This is especially alarming because the originally-proposed SOLs took steps in the right direction to teach about U.S. and Virginia history from diverse perspectives from a wide range of communities.
This “original” draft never received serious consideration by the Board because Superintendent Jillian Balow kept making excuses for delays after delays. It is not evident, she used that time to convene her own experts, including far-right, conservative institutions, like Hillsdale College and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, to completely rewrite the proposed standards.
The Youngkin standards are a disaster, failing to provide a quality K-12 public education for Virginia students.
- References to Native Americans as America’s “first immigrants,” stripping away their history and heritage as indigenous peoples and downplays the brutal impact to Native Americans due to westward expansion, except with a brief mention of the “Trail of Tears”
- Minimal references to Asian American & Pacific Islander experiences, limited to brief mentions of Japanese American incarceration (referred to as internment) and the 442nd regiment
- Removal of any mentions of LGBTQ+ history, Juneteenth, Cesar Chavez, or “racial conflict” compared to the original version
- Removal of content on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the importance of MLK Day from K-5 standards. Instead, adding age-inappropriate content for third graders to learn about the Greek and Roman historical figures like Hadrian and Hippocrates
- Recommendation that first graders read Peter Sis’s “Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus,” a book that has been widely criticized for denying that there was any conquest and infantilizes indigenous communities (like the Taino)
- Little discussion about the human impacts of enslavement in early Colonial Virginia, but emphasis on the economic and legal lens of the slave trade and tobacco plantations
- Advancement of the myth that the Founding Fathers were guided by Judeo-Christian beliefs, which is not historically correct
- Is Euro-centric. Greatly expands teaching Greek and Roman history while stripping the content of other non-Western civilizations (which is traditionally taught in Virginia), such as India, China, and Mali
On top of the obviously alarming problems with the content, Virginians should also be disturbed that the Youngkin standards were developed with no public input. In contrast, the original version was created in partnership by hundreds of educators, parents, students, historians, professors, museums, and state department of education staff considering over 6,000 public comments. Comments came from Virginians, not out-of-state actors with known political agendas, like Hillsdale College.
The blatant disregard for the integrity of the SOL process already in place tells us whose voices the Superintendent and the Youngkin administration really value.
Support including AAPI experiences in Virginia K-12 public education!
Virginia is home to many communities with differing backgrounds and histories. Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) have been critical to the story of Virginia and the United States for several generations. Yet these stories (like many) remain limited, incomplete, or inaccurately told. It is important that these narratives are included in our state’s K-12 education because people develop personal and community values through understanding historical events and impacts in context, and exploring perspectives through reading, writing, and sharing ideas during these years.
This year, the state is updating the Standards of Learning (SOLs) for History and Social Science. This process happens once every 7 years and the final SOLs are decided by the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE). SOLs are the state-mandated standard for student assessment and teacher curricula across the Commonwealth. Hamkae Center wants AAPI experiences included alongside our fellow Virginians because learning about different community struggles, contributions, and experiences can:
- help community members feel accepted, understood, and confident to make positive impacts
- promote empathy towards difference and new ideas
- strengthen critical thinking skills and develop well-rounded perspectives
- combat harmful narratives that inspire violence or disrespect to people and communities
Add your name to our petition to let the VBOE know you support the inclusion of AAPI experiences in the revised History and Social Sciences SOLs. Learning about these and other historically excluded communities are important to understanding Virginia’s past, navigating the present day, and shaping everyone’s future!