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At the first public hearing for Virginia's History Standards, commenters relay mixed reviews

State education leaders listened to a first round of public feedback Monday night. Comments were made in response to a History Standards of Learning proposal.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Dozens of educators, parents, students, and other members of the community attended and spoke at the Virginia Department of Education's public hearing at Jamestown Settlement in Williamsburg.

Reviews were mixed, surrounding the proposed 2023 History & Social Science Standards of Learning.

Some believe it’s a step up.

"These SOLs are sufficient. They're a vast improvement to the awful draft in August," said speaker James Atticus Bowden. 

"The document is clearly written. I think this will go a long way in helping teachers work with their students," said one Williamsburg-James City County resident. 

Others expressed discontent with the January 2023 draft.

"At this time, I think the best option is to go back to a standard proposed in August," said Mike Karabinos of Chesterfield County. 

The August 2022 draft was started under Gov. Ralph Northam's administration. Since then, State Superintendent Jillian Balow -- under current Gov. Glenn Youngkin's administration -- took over making revisions. Balow resigned in early March.

"Governor Youngkin's proposal promotes educating our state's children in the founding documents which contain truth," said a Mathews County resident and former teacher. 

"The Youngkin administration's rewrite of history and social science history is an attempt to claw back truths surrounding the nation's founding and the pivotal role played by Virginians and our founding fathers," Isle of Wight County mother Laura Fletcher said. 

Leaders with the Virginia Education Association have shared their disapproval of what's on the table.

“It's not enough detail when we start talking about the history of slavery, the history of racism," said VEA Vice President and veteran history teacher Carol Bauer. "We've heard from Governor Youngkin that we need teachers without judgment... but how do you talk about racism without judgment? How do you talk about discrimination without judgment?"

"Parents send their children to school to learn, not to be lied to or misled," said a retired teacher of 36 years, Denise Harrington.

"If we're going to live up to the founder's ideals, I'd still be in bondage," said speaker Dominique Chatters. 

Some said they take issue with what they call the erasure of the labor movement in some sections of the proposal.

"Any mention of the progressive movement should include the rise of organized labor, including in grade 6," said one speaker. 

"There's also a bond or a tie between the civil rights and the labor movement. I feel like to remove that in any capacity is doing everything a disservice," said Brian Peyton, president of labor union Teamsters Local 322 based in Richmond.

Moreover, part of some teachers' plea voiced Monday night was for sustainability.

"Without proper background and professional knowledge related to these new and additional historical concepts, it becomes increasingly difficult to implement and engage a learning experience for our youngest learners," said one Virginia Beach City Public Schools teacher. 

Daniel Gecker, president of the Virginia Board of Education, vowed to compile comments from all public hearings and use the feedback to revise the SOL draft, as needed.

At that point, the board would vote on whether to adopt it.

There are five more VDOE public hearings happening all across Virginia this week and next week.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023 

  • George Washington’s Mount Vernon:   Rubenstein Leadership Hall at the Library
  • 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 

  • Piedmont Community College:  Auditorium
  • 501 College Drive, Charlottesville

Thursday, March 16, 2023 

  • O. Winston Link & History Museum of Western Virginia:  Auditorium
  • 101 Shenandoah Ave NE, Roanoke

Monday, March 20, 2023  

  • Southwest Higher Education Center:  Rooms 103-104
  • 1 Partnership Circle, Abingdon

Tuesday, March 21, 2023 

  • Robert Russa Moton Museum:   Auditorium
  • 900 Griffin Blvd, Farmville  

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