What will new school history standards include?
Published 8:15 am Thursday, March 30, 2023
There’s too much work involved and not enough time in the classroom. There are multiple mistakes, such as labeling an area’s indigenous people as immigrants. And despite the length of the document, it doesn’t mention things like the 2008 financial crisis, the creation of Medicare or the Great Society. Those are some of the complaints leveled against the proposed third draft of Virginia’s Standards of Learning for History and Social Science. As the Virginia Board of Education debates if they should adopt the new standards, Farmville played host on Tuesday, March 21 to the final town hall meeting on the subject.
“There’s a staggering increase in content,” said Dr. Robin Smith. The former Hampden-Sydney College professor, whose three grandchildren attend local public schools, pointed out that nobody’s given teachers more time to tackle the additional work. In total, there are 132 new standards of learning, with no extra instructional time and no curriculum framework. Basically, Smith argued, teachers are being asked to do more work in the same amount of time, with no support.
“Public schools are the bedrock of democracy. They prepare students with the intellectual skills to become active citizens who can maintain our government. Effective social studies and history instruction are a crucial part of preparing citizens and these standards don’t provide that,” Smith said.
A REQUIRED SHIFT
Some other residents agreed with her, arguing that the new standards, if approved, would have no mention of labor movements or the trans-continental railroad. The government standards don’t mention how citizens can influence legislators to draft bills or spotlight the influence of lobbyists.
What it does cover, however, is Hitler’s “Final Solution”, along with Juneteenth, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the gay rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Supporters argue that it does just what Gov. Glenn Youngkin promised, which is to cover the good and the bad in both Virginia and the United States.
Those in opposition say it’s better than the last draft, but still not good enough.
Adjusting the standards is something that is required to happen by law. According to the Virginia Code, the Commonwealth has to revise its learning standards for all school subjects every seven years.
The Virginia Department of Education says it worked with a number of groups to put this draft together. That includes the Virginia NAACP, the Sikh Foundation of Virginia, the Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus and the Hampton Roads Black Caucus.
ALL OF VIRGINIA COMES TO MOTON
For one night, the Moton Museum was Grand Central Station on Tuesday, with people coming in from across the Commonwealth. Some arrived from Abingdon, while others showed up from Winchester and Richmond. By 6:30 p.m., the parking lot at the Moton Museum was packed, as was the lot across the street.
For Anne Taydus, the problem isn’t a change in the curriculum. Instead, she believes the concept of Standards of Learning overall is a bad idea. The co-founder of Virginians for Children First also has a problem with the proposed changes for kindergarten, as she feels there’s too much of a focus on working with others.
“Now (the proposed standards) say take turns, share and work well with others for the good of everyone else,” Taydus said. “My child is not human capital, to be taught to be part of a workforce. When you’re teaching children to no longer value what they want, you’re going to teach them to become part of a workforce.”
Other residents sounded off about a variety of issues, some related to the topic and some not. Parents from Campbell County and retired teachers from Chesterfield County all voiced their opinions, along with students from Longwood University. No one from Lunenburg or Charlotte counties spoke, but some from Prince Edward County gave their thoughts.
Dove Stanley, the board chair for Farmville Pride, pointed out that the issue is what’s not being taught.
“I am a homeschooled child,” Stanley said. “My parents took me out of school so they could control my education because the education that was available they felt was not in fitting with their personal beliefs. If you want to talk about indoctrination, it’s not from teaching people about everything that happened, it’s subtracting information about the realities of life and not letting them know what happened. That is indoctrination. The ugly parts need to be spoken of too, so we can learn to do better.”
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
This was the last of six public hearings scheduled across the state. The Virginia Board of Education will now take this information and decide if another draft is needed or if they want to approve the Standards of Learning as they currently are.