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Re: Revision of the History and Social Science Standards of Learning

March 24, 2023

Dear Virginia Board of Education,

Our goal at Campaign for Our Shared Future (COSF) is to ensure all children have an opportunity to learn from the past and prepare for their future. We know this goal requires high-quality history and social studies standards, especially amid efforts by radical politicians to censor what kids learn in Virginia and across the country.

Unfortunately, we share the concern that Virginia’s revision process was seized by political games at the expense of our kids. The decision to sidestep the initial draft of Standards (August 2022) developed over a transparent, two-year process silences the voices of hundreds of stakeholders, including students, teachers, historians, families, and some of the world’s leading history organizations. The resulting Standards (November 2022) aimed to score political points by watering down African American history and even erasing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the early grades. It’s un-American to downplay the impact of those who pushed to change our country to be better. We can all agree that learning about our heroes sets a great example for all of our children.

While we commend the Board’s improvements, the latest Standards (January 2023) still contain errors, omissions, and sequencing problems. Below are the objections raised by stakeholders with which COSF agrees. We urge you to address these concerns with adequate input from subject-matter experts across Virginia.

  • Doubling down on the fictional narrative that teachers are forcing White children to feel guilty for the consequences of American slavery (page 8 - 9).

  • Marginalizing the history and contributions of Indigenous Peoples, including by omitting Indigenous Peoples’ Day and teaching students that our history begins when European explorers arrived on the continent.

  • Providing superficial coverage of Black history and sidestepping the African American History Education Committee’s recommendations (e.g., not acknowledging the resistance of most white Southerners to Reconstruction, omitting the term “hate groups”).

  • Providing superficial coverage of the history and modern-day culture of the Latino/a/x community, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Focusing on teaching students what to think, not how to think.

  • Introducing disruptive sequence changes that could cause significant upheaval for school staffing, student scheduling, and state assessments.

While COSF is disappointed in the revision process and resulting language, we will continue to monitor the development, implementation, and impact of the Standards on the availability of true and complete history education for all children in the Commonwealth. It is also our sincere hope that the Board will restore its own time-honored approval processes and prioritize transparency and stakeholder engagement in adopting the revised Standards. Important work remains to realize Governor Youngkin’s mission “to teach our history, the good and the bad.” The stakes are high: Watering down history ensures that our children are unprepared to think critically and independently–and to face the real world.

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