Virginia Proposes Major Changes to Social Studies Standards

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

The new guidelines (pdf) are “our whole history” teaching: “America is exceptional but not perfect.”

“Students will learn about our nation’s unique strengths, including individual innovation, moral character, ingenuity, and adventure, while learning from dangerous periods and actions that directly conflict with these ideals,” the document reads.

The revised standards require “open access” to instructional materials in all Virginia public schools to “facilitate open and balanced discussions of difficult topics, including discrimination and racism, and to present learning opportunities free of personal or political bias.” “

The tone of the new guidelines, which is consistent with Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s inaugural speech and his first executive order, departs significantly from the August 2022 version (pdf). That version, drafted under previous Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, included more details on diversity and inclusion, racial justice and gender equality.

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According to Virginia law, the Board of Education must revise the 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 Friday afternoon and obtained by The Epoch Times, the VDOE said the 402-page August 2022 draft “attempted to combine both the standards and curriculum frameworks and instructional guidelines into one document.” “Unnecessarily difficult for educators to understand and implement” and “inaccessible to parents and families.”

The fact sheet also highlights differences to enhance understanding of communism, including “Identifying Genocides in the Modern Era, including the 100 million+ victims of communist regimes” in 10th grade and “Explaining the differences between capitalism, communism, Marxism, socialism, totalitarianism, and totalitarianism.” have. ” in 12th year.

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The Virginia Education Association (VEA), a teachers union representing more than 40,000 education employees in the commonwealth, accused the new amendment of being politically motivated.

“The standards include overt political bias, outdated language to describe enslaved people and American Indians, highly subjective framing of American moralism and conservative ideals, symbolic racist statements throughout, and require teachers to present the history of discrimination and racism in a ‘balanced’ manner. “Without personal or political bias,” and restricting the grant of ‘teacher-created curriculum’ permitted in all other subject areas,” VEA President James J. Federman said in a statement.

Ian Prior, executive director of Loudoun County-based parents’ rights advocacy group Fight for Schools, disagreed: “History is a work of human nature, conflict and progress. It can be inspiring, it can be dark, it can challenge teaching and learning.”

“These proposed changes to history and social education address those challenges by providing students with an objective knowledge of historical facts and an understanding of the human nature that drives both conflict and progress,” he added. “Applied correctly by educators in the classroom, it unlocks key critical thinking skills that students can use to make their own analysis and decisions as they mature into young leaders.”

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The VDOE fact sheet noted that the November version included additional content on slavery, segregation, and the civil rights movement, particularly in earlier grades.

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

Terry Wu

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

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