Support learning truth in Virginia K-12 public education!

Hamkae Center started this campaign in June 2022 to strengthen the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community content in Virginia’s History and Social Sciences Standards of Learning (SOL) based on feedback from hundreds of Virginians and our desire to uplift our AAPI communities who have lived in our Commonwealth for generations. This was our motivation through months of delays and disengagement from the Superintendent as she crafted her own whitewashed Standards for the Youngkin Administration. Now, alongside our fight for a comprehensive Asian-American content in our education, we are fighting to preserve truth and democracy in our education with our fellow Virginian educators, students, families, and community leaders – to ensure that all of our histories and students have the chance to be recognized and fully understood in our education.

Keep Truth & Transparency in our Public Education!

On January 5, Superintendent Balow released a third version of the History and Social Science Standards of Learning (SOL) revisions. This third set of standards, which merges the Department of Education (DOE)’s original SOLs draft from August and the disastrous Youngkin SOLs from November, will be presented to the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) for review on February 2.

Even after three rounds of SOL revisions, the same three areas of concern continue to render them unacceptable:

There are still serious mistakes, omissions of communities, and developmentally-inappropriate skill progression.

According to six subject-matter expert organizations (VSSLC, VASCD, AHA, VCSS, NCSS, & VGA), the content still contains serious omissions and mistakes. Read the full content analysis here.

  • USII.2g has the establishment of the NAACP included in Reconstruction during the 1870s, even though the NAACP was founded in 1909.
  • USII.7 states that the Marshall Plan- an economic recovery program designed and implemented in Western Europe-  also helped rebuild postwar Japan.
  • USII.7 places the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks under the Cold War.

Although learning about Indigenous and Black communities were improved, meaningful learning about additional communities – including (but not limited to) Latino and Asian Americans, women, immigrants, and working-class / labor movement – still lacks significantly compared to the August draft.

  • At Hamkae Center, we are deeply disappointed that AAPI curriculum remains focused on Chinese Exclusion and Japanese Incarceration.
    • No mentions of Chinese railroad workers during the Industrial Revolution.
    • Content from the August draft – such as the Philippine-American War, annexation of Hawaii, and post-war Vietnamese refugees – remain omitted.
  • All standards about the history of labor unions, strikes, and changes in working conditions are entirely omitted.
  • 4th Grade Virginia Studies only identifies white male leaders during the Revolutionary War and removes James Armistead Lafayette.

The skills listed for all grades are the same nine skills and do not demonstrate further development– meaning that a high schooler is learning the same skills as a kindergartner.

The January SOLs are still heavily politically-skewed and takes time and resources away from teaching and supporting students.

  • The principles, which act as the conceptual foundation of the SOLs, were widely criticized for telling an incomplete version of history, excluding overlooked communities, and pushing a far-right political agenda.
  • The implementation plan still includes provisions for teachers that take time and resources away from teaching and supporting students.

Supt. Balow continues to act without accountability and transparency to the public.

Balow claims that she consulted 200 groups and organizations. But, once again, she does not say which groups and organizations she worked with.

  • This lack of transparency resulted in the private, closed-doors engagement of 9 conservative consultants for the November draft – including William Bennett, Hillsdale College, and a former employee of a conservative think-tank called the Heritage Foundation. See the next section for more details.
  • In contrast, the SOLs drafted in August 2022 were developed with feedback and reporting from over 200 publicly-named organizations, stakeholder groups, and 5000 public comments over a 2-year process.

Consequently, the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium (VSSLC), Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (VASCD), and American Historical Association (AHA) created their own Collaborative Standards. The Collaborative Standards have been reviewed and endorsed by the Virginia Commission of Civic Education, NAACP, Hamkae Center, Virginia Educators Association, and other groups.

  • The Collaborative Standards faithfully merge the August and November documents and have publicly outlined their process used to create the document.
  • The Collaborate Standards include competent learning skills for students and teachers.

Given the alarming concerns about the January SOLs, the Virginia Board of Education should proceed with review and public comment using the Collaborative Standards made by VSSLC, VASCD, and AHA.

Due to overwhelming public pressure, Superintendent Jillian Balow released the names of groups and individuals she worked with to create the Youngkin standards and it’s clear that she prioritizes non-Virginians with conservative political agendas. It’s no wonder those standards are whitewashed, factually-inaccurate, and age-inappropriate.

Thousands of Virginians already weighed in on the original draft of the history SOLs from August in an open and democratic process. The Superintendent ignored them all in favor of these groups. She steamrolled Department of Education staff and ignored the existing feedback from hundreds of Virginia educators, parents, students, historians, professors, museums, and over 5,000 public comments.

Supt. Balow is knowingly working with groups with partisan politics that are wreaking havoc across the country to rewrite American history curricula. Groups such as Hillsdale College and the Civics Alliance have been seen in states (including, but not limited to, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, California, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee) currently battling to protect their state history standards from being whitewashed and altered.

The Youngkin SOLs preface and standards should not inform our state’s K-12 history classes because:

  • They purposefully and explicitly exclude communities to teach a limited perspective. LGBTQIA+ communities were removed and most of the new and existing AAPI history is missing.  Despite including a heading called “Expansion, Civil War, and Reconstruction,” Youngkin’s standards hardly address Reconstruction at all and either emphasize 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. These events, places, and people are too significant to be “accidentally” left out. 
  • They are not age-appropriate. K-3 standards focus on concepts and topics that are not developmentally appropriate for the students, such as the Code of Hammurabi, Sic semper tyrannis, and voter registration requirements.
  • They are written by divisive groups that are clearly pushing a far-right political agenda.

List of groups & individuals:

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 now evident that 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.

Some examples of the changes:

  • 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.

This action is now closed.

Thanks to the emails that you sent, the Board of Education unanimously voted to NOT adopt the Youngkin SOLs as-is! But the fight isn’t over- take action above.

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!

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Letter to the Virginia Department of Education