Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin proposes a right-leaning overhaul of the public school curriculum

On Nov. 11, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s right-wing administration announced a package of proposed changes to the history and social sciences curricula taught in the state’s public schools.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia speaks to Kari Lake supporters at a campaign rally at Dillon Precision in Scottsdale, Arizona. October 19, 2022 [Photo by Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0]

The Standards of Learning (SOLs) provide the framework for the curriculum in each subject taught in Virginia public schools. They determine what students from kindergarten through 12th grade need to learn in order to pass their classes.

By law, SOLs must be reviewed by the State Board of Education at least every seven years. Under the previous administration of Democrat Ralph Northam, a draft of the SOLs had been prepared over several months with the collaboration of historians, academics, economists, geographers and political scientists, as well as input from teachers, parents and students. In total, it comprised more than 400 pages.

Youngkin, who took office in early 2022, has appointed five people to the nine-member education committee. In August, in one of its first major acts under Youngkin, the board rejected the draft SOLs and delayed the planned vote on the draft from late 2022 to early 2023, with Youngkin appointees citing concerns about the content.

The new version only has 52 pages. Below the section headed “Expectations for Virginia Students” is a passage that states that the new standards will recognize the “optimism, ideals, and imagery inherent in Ronald Reagan’s “Shining City on a Hill” speech. were caught”. The reference to Reagan, whose presidency (1981-1989) marked a sharp turn to the right in American politics, sets the tone for the remainder of the document.

Among other things, students are expected to learn about “the inhumanity and deprivation of communist regimes” while “gaining an appreciation for the qualities and actions that have made America the world’s paragon of freedom, opportunity, and democratic ideals.”

Under the section listing the “fundamental principles” for history and social sciences, the document bluntly asserts that “free enterprise, property rights, and the rule of law enable an economic system that allocates assets through free markets and competition and fosters innovation, opportunity, and efficiency” while on the other hand “centralized government planning in the form of socialism or communist political systems is incompatible with democracy and individual liberties.”