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Yes, Virginia, we want to teach history

Position of 4 Public Education and a Call To Action

Governor Glenn Youngkin, and his Department of Education, are attempting to quietly white wash Virginia history and subvert the will of the people of Virginia to provide an honest and balanced curriculum for our public school students.

His regressive agenda rejects already approved content in revised educational policies in which African American history is equitably represented in our school materials.

In 2020, the Virginian Department of Education (DOE) approved content that was added to the revised Virginia History and Social Studies Standards of Learning (SOL).

That content was designed to give Virginia public school students a more equitable representation of the history of all Virginians. The public comment period for the revised SOL was held January 28 - March 1, 2021, and the revised SOL is scheduled to be finalized in Fall 2022.

However, in contravention of the already approved content in the SOL, and the will of the people expressed during the public comment period in 2021, in 2022 Governor Youngkin issued Executive Order No. 1, calling for the end of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) education in Virginia’s K-12 Public Schools. His intent was to prohibit teaching the history of every Virginian, specifically evidence-based history related to the periods of Slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, civil rights struggles and more recent history that influenced and continues to influence our laws.

Then, in July 2022 his administration opened a second, unscheduled public comment period on the revised SOL when the official schedule called instead for “at least five” public hearings to be taking place in July and August 2022. These SOLs are to be finalized this November, and there is no logic behind these Youngkin administration decisions to request additional pubic comment other than he is attempting to whitewash Virginia’s history, as stated in his Executive Order No. 1.

We have analyzed the process and the already approved content to the Virginia History and Social Studies SOLs and find that:

The truth is that the revised version of the SOL includes evidence-based information on African American history to ensure that students learn that a fundamental part of American and Virginian history is the life and experiences of enslaved and formerly enslaved Virginians. This information is part of what is needed to help Virginia’s students to develop an understanding of our history and the cultural competency skills necessary for success in school and beyond.

All teachers need to be equipped for culturally competent fact-based instruction, and we agree with the text based on the Commission’s recommendations in the revised document. Those interested in a fact check on the content should know that between August and November of 2022 the BOE is required to “Convene [a] Historian Committee meeting to verify the historical accuracy of all K-12 content suggestions.”

By opening the SOL to another public comment period rather than continuing with the officially scheduled approval process, 4PE concludes that the Youngkin administration is attempting to remove references to the African American history curriculum as explained in Executive Order 1. Because this SOL will remain in effect for seven years, (the next revision is scheduled for 2029), it is important that we get this revision right.

This is why 4 Public Education encourages commenters to tell the Youngkin administration’s Board of Education that:

  1. We want retained in the revised SOL the content that was approved in 2020 by the BOE and that was retained after the official public comment period in 2021.

  2. We stand for including a true and complete accounting of our Commonwealth’s history in our History and Social Studies curricula, and

  3. African American history is not divisive content, it is part of our history.

Instructions on how to make public commenting easier:

  1. Review section by section the revised SOL and take notes on the points you want to make for each section. e.g. “Kindergarten”.

  2. On the website find the “Public Comment Google Form” link that corresponds to each section you are addressing and one by one fill out the form for that section. e.g. “Kindergarten”.

  3. Helpful hint: If you are interested in a specific topic you can search for a keyword in the revised SOL by using the ‘find’ feature in Word (the revised SOL document is a Word document). For example, if you search for the word “African” you will see 174 locations in the document where that word is highlighted.

  4. Remember - In the revised document, the underlined text is what was added to the 2015 SOL version to create the 2022 version. Much of what was added was based on recommendations by the Commission on African American History Education, and that content was approved by the Virginia Board of Education in 2020. 4 Public Education encourages commenters to advocate for the underlined text to be retained in the SOL document when it is implemented.

  5. While individual specific comments may carry more weight, you may also simply write:

“I strongly support the SOL for history and social studies, with the revised content that was approved by the DOE in 2020 and reject any attempt to perpetuate the mythology that the history of enslaved and formerly enslaved Virginians is either divisive or lacking in historical significance.”

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