BY MARTIN D. BROWN
Governor Glenn Youngkin is a man who brings disparate people together. A principled man who recognizes injustice, mourns tragedy and celebrates inclusion. A man who “runs to the fire” to smother the flames of division and restore decency, faith and honor to everyone he meets.
The revised learning standards that Gov. Youngkin’s Department of Education is adopting will also quench the flames that fearmongers are using to try to spread a wildfire of distrust, fear and anger.
In mid-November, the Virginia Board of Education submitted the revised standards for further revision and public comment before accepting the standards for initial review. That is normal. This is how world-class standards are created. They provide a draft, ask for input, and make the necessary changes. Education standards are wonderful once they’re ready, but a little messy when you’re in the middle of creating them. But they all have to start with the right ingredients.
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All the right ingredients for Virginia and our nation’s history: the story of our Native American brothers and sisters, the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow and Massive Resistance will be included along with the wisdom, leadership, and exploits of former Martin Luther King Jr. President Barack Obama and Harriet Tubman, where all are taught in Virginia schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.
I was disappointed to see the rapid and rampant mischaracterization of our new history standards by self-serving partisans and interest groups as an attempt to erase history or mislead Virginia students. On the contrary, the new standards strive to eliminate political bias and replace it with real healing as part of the content. History teaching is objective, not subjective.
Effective education teaches people how to think not to tell them What to think or limit their knowledge to one point of view. In the same light, our Constitution and Bill of Rights have proven to be the glue that holds our imperfect union together, which continues to strive to become that perfect union that ensures the justice and peace of mind we all desire. Because of our history, our overcoming, and our pursuit of these ideals, we live in the most diverse, free, and prosperous country in the world. Every Virginia student should know and understand this.
As a parent, I believe that students who do not know and understand their history are more likely to repeat past mistakes. The standards set in the Department of Education teach history, including the dark times when we as a nation have failed to anchor our values and community.
The Jewish community teaches the details of the Holocaust so it will never happen again. It is both important and stimulating to hear Governor Youngkin reiterate his unwavering commitment that Virginia schools teach all of our history, good and bad. There is a need to teach about the evils of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow and the like to ensure these evils never happen again. The standards address the evils of slavery at all grade levels. They are also not shy about discussing the cause of segregation and massive resistance. The updated standards not only describe the horrors of world wars, but also shed light on our heroes, including the Tuskegee Airmen, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Navajo Code Talkers.
In addition, under the Guiding Principles for the Implementation of Virginia’s History and Social Standards, school boards have the flexibility to select a curriculum they deem appropriate for their location.
Diversity is a hallmark of the Youngkin administration, which honors and respects the wide variety of cultures represented in our students across the Commonwealth, which is reflected in over 50 different languages spoken by students throughout Virginia. The standards presented by the Department of Education will prepare these students to be conscientious citizens of this Commonwealth, while encouraging ideological freedom and diversity of thought, and drawing on our history to teach both good and evil.
I appreciate the Virginia Board of Education’s commitment to getting this right. The history of our Commonwealth is rich and need not be divisive. The new standards will highlight our differences, acknowledge injustice, mourn tragedy, and celebrate overcoming and inclusion. You will restore decency and honor to every Virginian.
Thank you, Governor Youngkin, for your hard work in incorporating all of these complex narratives about Virginia into the Learning Standards. Our amazing, complicated, yet shared history will strengthen, not divide, the diversity of our Commonwealth.