FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2023
Media contact: Zowee Aquino (firstname.lastname@example.org / 757-842-0138)
Mt. Vernon, VA – On Tuesday, March 14, 2023, Hamkae Center with Virginia Educators Association, ACLU People Power Fairfax, 4 Public Education, and Pride Liberation Project gathered during a state-mandated public comment forum in Mount Vernon. Over 75 students, parents, educators, and advocates spoke out to demand that the Department and Board of Education reject the Youngkin administration’s proposed whitewashed revisions of the state’s Standards of Learning (SOLs). Together, they held the Board of Education and the Youngkin Administration accountable to the people of the Commonwealth by demanding that students are given a high-quality education and taught accurate, developmentally-appropriate, and comprehensive content in their History and Social Science SOLs that includes historically-marginalized communities.
This action comes after an 8-month delay of the History and Social Sciences SOL revision process – a process that is reviewed and revised every seven years in Virginia. Governor Youngkin’s administration rejected the original SOL revisions proposed by Virginian educators, parents, and students. Instead, outside contractors and politically-biased organizations were brought into the state and a new proposal was created – one that removed the representation of marginalized communities and reduced content to white-dominant narratives.
“As an Asian American parent of school-aged kids here in Fredericksburg, Virginia, I think it is critically important for my children to understand our full history as a state and nation, including Asian American and Pacific Islander histories, and also African American, Indigenous, and Latinx histories,” remarked a Taiwanese American parent from Fredericksburg. “The history of the Black struggle for freedom and the “Second Founding” of the “Re-United States” as a true multiracial democracy after the Civil War and during Reconstruction is particularly important for my Asian American kids to know. Our beloved multiracial democracy here in Virginia is best protected and advanced through a genuine understanding of past and multiracial unity and solidarity moving forward.”
“The history and social studies curriculum that we teach our children are tools to help future generations tackle big problems in our increasingly diverse global world. However, it seems that these standards exist to comfort people’s nostalgia instead of teaching the hard lessons and resilience of our society,” says Kevin Xu, Chinese American Virginian, and Thomas Jefferson High School alum, “For instance, the curriculum seems to have plenty of time to call out details of numerous foreign terrorist attacks and frame them as ‘attacks on our democracy,’ but refuses to specifically talk about domestic terrorism incidents that occurred with White supremacists, such as the Oklahoma City bombing. Framing acts of terrorism as just ‘foreign acts’ also fails to teach our kids how our own histories and social studies education can be manipulated to create violent hate groups in the US.”
A Chinese American high school senior from Alexandria added, “Teaching all these marginalized histories matter because for students from those communities, they often act as a foundation for understanding who we are and why our communities matter. When the superintendent omitted history as important as Martin Luther King Jr. from grades K-5 and chalked it up to a ‘mistake,’ it was insulting. It feels insulting to even have any of that draft be a part of the current revisions being debated right now. Putting so much importance to our marginalized histories is one reason a lot of my classmates and I were so happy about the August draft, even if we still had critiques, because it showed that the VDOE not only valued our communities, but was taking the action to back it up. The idea that this could very well be the only history taught to our little siblings, students, and friends in elementary and middle school is frightening because our education should not be carelessly handled like this.”
In her comment, Sujatha Hampton, 2nd VP and Education Chair of the Fairfax County NAACP, discussed how the January standards set Virginia and its students up for failure. “The proposed standards will set our children up to be less informed and less ready for the rigors of university. To be brutally honest, if we were to go forward with the proposed collection of slapdash, ahistorical, easily-disprovable standards, Virginia will soon become a national and international laughing stock.” Hampton adds, “The work the Virginia Board of Ed. produced is simply unworthy of 2023. We have already learned too much to let this stand. We know too much about our collective history, there are too many books, there are too many podcasts, there are too many documentaries, there is too much information out there for this fraud to stand. The deletion of the existence and contributions of Indigenous people and African Americans from the American story is at the heart of the fraud this Board of Ed is trying to perpetrate on Virginia residents. We see you. And we have come too far to let this stand. It’s not happening. If you double down, we will just double down harder. Truth is winning out this time, full stop.”
“While the problematic introduction states that there should be discussions on difficult topics including racism, racism is not mentioned once in the standards.” stated Sami Watson, Field Coordinator at Hamkae Center, “This is not surprising. The January Standards were developed with no transparency, in a hasty 3 to 4 month process, where the Superintendent worked with out-of-state actors with known politically-motivated agendas. Virginians need a history curriculum that teaches students how to think critically, and not just memorize information. The standards are in the hands of the Board. You are an independent body. You don’t have political ambitions unlike others in Virginia. Listen to what people are saying. Reject the January 2023 Standards and move forward with the August 2022 standards so that Asian American histories can be taught, alongside everyone else’s here.”
Hamkae Center is a community-based organization with a mission to organize Asian Americans in Virginia to achieve social, economic, and racial justice. Alongside its community members, Hamkae Center works to build a future in which low- and middle-income, immigrant, people of color, and all marginalized communities can fully participate in U.S. society and work together as makers of lasting change.
We are the Virginia affiliate of the NAKASEC Network. Other members include HANA Center (Illinois), Woori Center (Pennsylvania), MinKwon Center for Community Action (New York), and Woori Juntos (Texas).