Virginia’s History Teaching Policies are a Model for the Country – Independent Women’s Forum | Team Cansler

Last week, Virginia took a big step in taking politics out of the classroom and back into fact. The Commonwealth Department of Education has published “guiding principles” for revising its state standards for history and social studies, which require meaningful civic education and a comprehensive view of American history.

The Guiding Principles require a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum that teaches history from ancient times to the present day, with an emphasis on US history, particularly as it relates to Virginia. The Principles are not shy about the breadth of topics the curriculum must cover: “Students will study the horrors of war and genocide… They will study the abhorrent treatment of Native Americans, the taint of slavery, segregation, and racism in the United States better understand and around the world and the inhumanity and deprivation of communist regimes.”

The message here is that historical evils are not unique to America. The bigger message, however, is about American size. The guidelines include “inspirational moments[,] including…the American Revolution, the triumph of America’s greatest generation in World War II, the Marshall Plan, the civil rights movement” and more.

Most state-level curriculum guidelines make no mention of parents, but Virginia’s guidelines explicitly invite them into the conversation via “informed parental engagement.” “Parents should have free access to all instructional materials used in every Virginia public school,” the document said.

The role of the teacher is also outlined not only as a provider of information, but as a non-political and impartial moderator between the students. According to the guidelines, teachers are responsible for “enabling[ing] open and balanced discussions on difficult issues, including discrimination and racism, and the present[ing] Opportunities to learn without personal or political bias.”

By incorporating the evils of slavery and other horrific bits of our nation’s past, the Virginia Guidelines refute the lie propagated by Critical Race Theory adherents: that without their ideology, students would be learning a sugar-coated version of American history. Instead, Virginia students will learn that America is a great country, not because it is sinless, but because it has overcome and continues to overcome those sins. This is the antidote to Critical Race Theory, which teaches that America is irrevocably evil and our institutions must therefore be torn down or forced to do penance forever.

Virginia insists that his students learn about the ancient Greeks and Romans, pointing to the importance of educating students in Western civilization. This is important not because western civilization is the only one that matters (it isn’t), but because it is the one we live in and therefore deserves some teaching time.

Virginia got its policy right by focusing on the facts of the story, not the identities of the people involved. Other states have missed the mark: In Colorado, for example, the state board of education just voted to include references to LGBT history in the state’s social studies curriculum, even for preschoolers. It would be wrong to exclude LGBT people from all history classes, and it is also wrong to frame a history curriculum around a person’s identity rather than facts about what happened, where, when and why.

Minnesota, too, is willing to unnecessarily insert left-wing politics into social studies curricula. His current draft norms would lead ninth graders to “develop an analysis of racial capitalism, political economy, anti-Blackness, indigenous sovereignty, illegality, and indigenousness,” a project designed to facilitate political critique more than historical learning.

We don’t have national social studies curricula, and for good reason: every state deserves to decide what its students learn. Students should know what makes their state special, just as they should know what makes their country great. Virginia students learn about the close connection between the history of their Commonwealth and their country. South Dakota’s new history standards, announced in August, include a major focus on Native American history and the ways it shaped the state and nation.

History lessons should be different in every state. Still, each state should make these unique decisions with principles in mind, including a commitment to facts, civics, and American pride, that will enliven Virginia’s new policies.

Leave a Comment