RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Board of Education has set a timeline for completing the state’s new history curriculum, but some board members have raised objections about new perspectives on history.
The Board of Education, which now has a majority of members appointed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, voted to delay implementation of the new curriculum. Board chairman Daniel Gecker told a meeting on Wednesday that the boar now expects to approve the final form in January 2023 – just two months after the original deadline of November this year.
Gecker, an appointee of former Gov. Ralph Northam, also raised concerns that the council had meddled in the program for political reasons.
“Comments that we’re editing or not teaching the whole story are not correct,” Gecker said. “The process in which we were involved is strictly linked to the aspect of the document, to its form.
“In my view, at this point, claims that substantial changes have been made to the document to reflect people’s views on current views are simply categorically incorrect.”
Christonya Brown, the Department for Education official in charge of the social studies curriculum, confirmed that no changes had been made – apart from corrections of unintended errors – since the new council majority took over. relay.
Instead, the department focused on “decoupling” the documents – dividing the curriculum and standards so they were easier for teachers to interpret.
“It’s separate,” Brown said. “But it’s still the same content as that document we brought to you in August.”
Then the department will hold an open public comment until September 25, which will open soon. on the VDOE website. Then, in November, the board will hold community roundtables with the documents decoupled for direct feedback.
Finally, in December, the board will hold public hearings and meet with the Historians Steering Committee for a final review, with final approval taking place in January.
“We’re not considering a delay of more than a month, which isn’t bad. I don’t think that puts us in a bad position,” Brown said.
Anne Holton, a Northam appointee, asked Brown if she thinks any major changes are needed based on the public feedback gathered so far.
“I don’t anticipate any major changes or removal of content,” Brown said. “From what we saw in the public comments… it was more about broadening out and being more inclusive of other peoples, events and cultures.”
A board member expressed serious opposition to the program proposed by the VDOE.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Suparna Dutta said: “What baffles me a bit is that these themes and concepts talk about questionable concepts like conflict and power relations and highlight colonialism, imperialism , servitude, slavery, nationalism, racism, cultural or similar expressionism, basic economic principles.
She added that she would prefer to see the program based on “traditional American values” such as “individual liberty and economic freedom.”
Prior to his appointment by Governor Glenn Youngkin in July, Dutta was a prominent voice in Fairfax County against efforts to promote equity at Thomas Jefferson High School, a highly selective and competitive magnet school. In 2019, the year before the pandemic hit, just 1.72% of the student body was black — in a county with more than 9% of the population.
Dutta also opposed a move towards “inquiry-based learning”, a teaching method which “encourages students to engage in problem-solving and experiential learning”.
“Just to reiterate,” Brown replied, “the shift or transition to inquiry-based practices is not something that just came out of this team.”
She added that it was based on national research and recommendations from the National Council for Social Studies.
Dutta, meanwhile, called the method “backward” and questioned the VDOE’s cooperation with the National Social Science Council.
“There are a lot of things on their website that bother me,” she said. “It speaks to the narrative ‘told through the lens of those who created and continue to benefit from America’s cultural institutions.’ It reads, ‘White, financially secure, Christian, heterosexual, and cisgender men.’
At the end of the meeting, board chairman Gecker pushed back on calls, mostly from Dutta, to change the program.
“I just want to remind board members that our job at this point is not to make individual editing changes to the document,” he said. “I mean it’s always within the purview of the staff.”
He added that the board could make changes later in the process, but that they should work together toward common goals already achieved by the new program.
“I just don’t believe that the views of history on this council or frankly in the Commonwealth are so different that we can’t come to some amicable common ground,” Gecker said.