Tyler Arnold | November 21, 2022
(The Center Square) – As officials continue to debate changes to the history standards in the public education curriculum, the Virginia Board of Education voted to delay the consideration of the Department of Education’s proposal and make new revisions.
The Department of Education unveiled its history curriculum proposal and put it before the board. The proposal included substantial changes to the previous draft document, which had been introduced under former Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration. Although the board argued its current proposal built on the draft document, some critics said the changes made it an entirely new proposal.
Because the new proposal had just been introduced, the department faced criticism for the fast changes and argued that it needs to go through a more thorough vetting process. Some of the changes faced criticism and some alleged that ethnic minorities were not being represented fairly under the new proposal.
Brendan Gillis, during the public comment portion of the meeting, said the document developed under the Northam administration, was transparent and incorporated years of conversations with historians, parents and education professionals. He said, going forward, any changes to that document should more thoroughly include those members of the public before adoption.
Gillis is a career history educator, self-professed historian, and parent of a child in the Virginia education system.
Pushback also came from teachers. One said she was concerned about omissions and misstatements in the new proposal, and said it is disrespectful to the commonwealth’s diverse groups of people. She also argued that teaching skills need to be at the forefront of the curriculum standards, rather than the memorization of facts.
Crystal Parker, a parent, said the standards are cloaked as politically neutral, but actually contain bias that relies on a European-centric and Christian-centric set of values. She said it does not reflect diversity and could leave certain students feeling unseen.
Although the department countered those claims and said the proposal includes elements of the draft document and even builds on them, the board decided to delay adoption. The board requested that Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow propose a new set of standards that include elements of the current document and the August draft document.
Earlier this year, Gov. Glenn Youngkin addressed the board to promote his changes to the curriculum. The governor argued that the standards must reflect all of Virginia’s history, which includes the good and the bad. Even though the governor’s appointees make up the majority of the board, the proposal failed to advance.