Board of Education: Stick to Your Guns!

by James A. Bacon

The Youngkin administration’s proposed revisions to the history and social-science Standards of Learning have run into a buzz saw of opposition from critics who claim the standards aren’t, for lack of a better word, “woke” enough.

As The Washington Post summarizes the changes: “The new proposed version generally places less less emphasis on the perspectives of marginalized peoples, removes suggested discussions of racism and its lingering effects, and promotes the workings of the free market, with limited government intervention.” Left-leaning educators and lawmakers argue that the standards “offer a simpler version of history that pays less attention to the perspectives and lives of people of color, especially Indigenous and non-European communities.”

After a four-hour public comment session, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has voted to delay consideration of the standards.

I urge Youngkin-appointed board members to stand firm.

The interpretation of history is inherently political. There is no way to be purely objective, because there is no avoiding making value judgments regarding what every child should learn. This battle is part of a larger struggle in our polarized society over competing narratives regarding the legitimacy of American institutions. This battle plays out in higher-ed, the media, museums, churches and other cultural institutions.

The left has won that battle almost everywhere. Aside from churches, the only domain that remains contested is K-12 education. 

There is a tug of war between the conservatives’ “citizenship” paradigm, which considers contemporary American institutions legitimate (though, like human nature, imperfect) and the left’s “social justice” paradigm, which judges American institutions against a utopian ideal of equality and finds them grievously defective from the nation’s founding until the present.

The Standards of Learning are updated in a years-long review process. The Northam administration pushed the history and social-science standards to the left. Now it’s the Youngkin administration’s turn to push back. So, do it. You might not get another chance.

The educational establishment will always be able to mobilize massive displays of support for its leftist positions. It has organizational heft — not just the Virginia Education Association teachers union but a host of other professional organizations and advocacy groups all captured by the left — that conservatives can’t begin to match. It’s fine to consider input from those groups, but it’s not the job of SBOE members to do their bidding. Your responsibility is to the people of Virginia.

You’ll never win the approval of the legacy media. You’ll never win the approval of the teachers’ union. You’ll never win the approval of the intelligentsia. You stand in the way of their desired “transformation” of America, which entails endowing them with the power, status and authority to impose their ever-morphing agenda.

Don’t be cowed. Stand firm.

Update: A correspondent tells me that the proposed standards were “unworkable for teachers,” and would have caused chaos if implemented in their current form. The draft needed clean-up work, and that’s the reason the Board voted to delay it. The source is informed and credible, and I believe him.

None of that changes the larger points I make above regarding the necessity of standing firm in the culture wars. The good news here is that the Youngkin appointees on the SBOE decision to delay did not constitute a buckling to the wokesters. VDOE needs to address real problems in the draft that transcend partisan politics.

Update: Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera released the following statement today:

…Our commitment is to provide best-in-class standards guided by his foundational principle to teach all of our history — the good and the bad. A first step in accomplishing that goal required decoupling Virginia’s standards and instructional guidance (called curriculum frameworks), which had been combined and conflated under the Northam administration in an earlier draft. We made that first step to better serve the teachers and parents utilizing these documents and, yesterday, the State Board of Education moved forward our revised draft standards document for further revisions and public comment before accepting the standards for first review at a later meeting. Now, the Board and the Department of Education staff are working to correct any omissions and errors as we continue to seek public input….


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64 responses to “Board of Education: Stick to Your Guns!”

  1. James Kiser Avatar
    James Kiser

    Local news had some lame brain claiming that American Indians aren’t immigrants now there is woke history for you.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Everybody outside a few valleys in East Africa had ancestors who emigrated from somewhere at some time. 🙂 What a meaningless exercise….

      1. James Kiser Avatar
        James Kiser

        exactly in the general scope of events in the world it is meaningless but her statement on its face is wrong and if it is wrong it shouldn’t be taught as fact.

    2. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      Now there’s a topic for revision to be articulated by woke conservatives. Eliminate the term “Native American “ or indigenous people in favor of universal migrant to characterize any folks settled in some geographic area before being replaced by immigrants from another area. “Universal” could resolve our quagmire at the nation’s borders. No one is an immigrant, simply an individual in transit.

    3. DJRippert Avatar

      Good point. The other point that gets missed is that Native American tribes were incredibly violent toward one another. Wars of conquest and genocide were common. Before European settlement Native Americans held other Native Americans as slaves. After European colonization, Native Americans owned slaves imported from, or descended from, Africans (just like the White Americans did). Chickasaw citizens owned 975 slaves, which amounted to 18 percent of their total population, a proportion equivalent to that of white slave owners in Tennessee, a former neighbor of the Chickasaw Nation and a large slaveholding state. While most Native Americans did not own slaves, neither did most Mississippi Whites.

      I never hear liberals talk about Native American slaveholders or Native American tribes committing genocide against other Native American Indian tribes.

      From 1654 through the Civil War free Blacks in America owned slaves. This occurred in each of the 13 colonies and every state where slavery was allowed.

      You liberals want to teach history? Then teach it completely and accurately.

      1. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        Slavery among Native American tribes in pre-colonial times was largely limited to prisoners of war many of whom were subsequently integrated into the conquering band. When the new immigrant colonists arrived, trading slaves became a commercial attraction. Later, some Native American groups traded in African slaves.

        You likely “never hear liberals talk about Native American slaveholders or Native American tribes committing genocide against other Native American Indian tribes” because the roar of such descriptive – without context – language overcomes fair presentation. Good rhetoric and whatabout do not replace accuracy or completeness.

        You conservatives want to teach history? Really?

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Exactly. They really want to promote lies and disinformation about slavery among Native Americans.

          re: ” Native American tribes were incredibly violent toward one another. Wars of conquest and genocide were common.”

          as if no such things took place among the more “civilized” Europeans?

          Ironic for DJ who pontificates about the “plantation elite” among Virginians.

          I wonder if there was such a thing as “plantation elite” among the Native Americans

          Yes – do we REALLY want Conservatives teaching about Slavery and other issues?

          Only if we want made-up stuff to fit their beliefs.

          And of course, in their beliefs, any/all REAL historians upon which we’d rely for the truth – well hell, they’re ALL “woke” of course!

          add this to the list of stuff that conservatives have become “deniers” of.

          They complain of “indoctrination”…

          They do know the subject!

          1. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            The Iroquois Nation according to historians and their culture is a matriarchy which informed the development of women’s ownership of property and inheritance in American law. For centuries, peace reigned among easter Native American bands under the Great Peace and Haudenosaunee compact. IOW, when the settlers arrived, the Native Americans they encountered were well established in a stable, peaceful society. What the newcomers taught them is what is seen today.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            Indeed. Conservatives almost seem to HAVE to label them as uncivilized savages.. who tortured each other and owned slaves… end of story…

            This is apparently what Conservatives were taught in jim crow era school and “believe” it and that it should continue to be taught.

            Any “history” from real historians is “woke” propaganda.

            This is the ignorati running amok – “updating” history!

          3. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            Read through DJR’s link. Surprising conclusions.

          4. DJRippert Avatar

            When was the term “uncivilized savages” used? It wasn’t.

            Native Americans, like European Americans, did torture each other and did own slaves. Should that reality be taught in schools or not? This isn’t a hard question – even for you.

            Freed Black Americans did own Black slaves. Should this reality be taught in schools or not?

            Native Americans did own Black slaves. In some cases, quite a number of Black slaves. Should this reality be taught in schools or not?

            Liberals only want to teach about White transgressions in genocide and slavery because liberals are racist. They see White society are superior. In the liberal’s mind, White people should have known better. If Native Americans committed genocide and owned slaves, well … that doesn’t count because, in the liberal mind, they don’t know any better.

            I think all the history should be taught and everybody should be held accountable for their historical actions.

          5. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            BULLSHIT intellectual sophistry. Bring your arguments to VDOE. A big opinion is a dangerous thing.

          6. DJRippert Avatar

            More bullshit.

            “As I’ve pointed out previously, prominent scientists now deride depictions of pre-state people as peaceful. “Contra leftist anthropologists who celebrate the noble savage,” the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker wrote in 2007, “quantitative body counts—such as the proportion of prehistoric skeletons with ax marks and embedded arrowheads or the proportion of men in a contemporary foraging tribe who die at the hands of other men—suggest that pre-state societies were far more violent than our own.” According to Pinker, the 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes “got it right” when he called pre-state life a “war of all against all.”

            “Native Americans definitely waged war long before Europeans showed up. The evidence is especially strong in the American Southwest, where archaeologists have found numerous skeletons with projectile points embedded in them and other marks of violence; war seems to have surged during periods of drought.”

            https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/thanksgiving-guilt-trip-how-warlike-were-native-americans-before-europeans-showed-up/

          7. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            So, a sole blog post justifies your presentation? First of all, archeological finds and evidence as cited do not raise to the level of war, death, and violence you present. The history of the Iroquois Nation as cited is well documented if not acceptable to you. No assertion was made that Native American bands did not battle others. What is, again, bullshit is your tirade. Throwing the material evidences the paucity of your knowledge and argument.

          8. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            Your excerpt from the link you provided is virtually contradicted by its closing paragraphs. Your zealotry is exceeded only by the dishonesty of your excerpted citation. It demonstrates your intellectual shallowness.

          9. DJRippert Avatar

            Disinformation? Even Mr. Silly Walks admitted that Native Americans enslaved other Native Americans. He just tried to excuse that enslavement as only applying to prisoners of war. That’s bullshit. The women and children of conquered tribes were enslaved too. Were they prisoners of war?

          10. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            What’s bullshit is your reading of my comment. Tell all more about the facts of your assertions. If y’all could read thru your dudgeon, you would see that my statement is not limited by the word “ only.” But then that spoils your anger.

          11. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            Another reading/ interpretation error. Your belittling average gets higher as your denials increase.

        2. DJRippert Avatar

          Fascinating. You ignore the Native American vs Native American tribal genocide. Should this be taught in school? That’s a yes or no question counselor.

          You downplay Native American enslavement of other Native Americans prior to Europeans coming to North America. You claim it was only in cases of prisoners of war. So, only male warriors were enslaved? The women and children of conquered Indian nations were not enslaved? Want to bet? Should the pre-colonial enslavement of Native Americans by other Native Americans be taught in school? Once again, a yes or no question.

          You write …

          You likely “never hear liberals talk about Native American slaveholders or Native American tribes committing genocide against other Native American Indian tribes” because the roar of such descriptive – without context – language overcomes fair presentation. Good rhetoric and whatabout do not replace accuracy or completeness.

          As usual when you are losing an argument you embrace jibberish.

          Native Americans held Blacks as slaves. That’s a fact. In the case of the Chicksaw they enslaved Blacks at the same rate as Whites enslaved Blacks. Facts are stubborn things. Once again, should this fact be taught in school?

          You also ignore the fact that free Blacks enslaved Blacks prior to the Civil War. Should this be taught in school or not?

          The simple truth is that your arguments belie a horrible level of racism. Your thinking appears to be that White people are morally superior and should be held to a higher standard than Native American or Blacks. While the history classes should shout about White genocide against Native Americans those same classes should be silent about Native American genocide against Native Americans. You make excuses for Native American enslavement of other Native Americans claiming that the slaves were eventually “assimilated”. You spew word salad when confronted with the fact that Native Americans held Blacks in slavery, sometimes at very high rates. You ignore the fact that freed Blacks enslaved non-free Blacks.

          You don’t want to teach these facts because you look down your nose at Native Americans and Blacks. You see them as so inferior that they can’t be held accountable for their actions. In your mind only White people have the moral fiber to be held accountable for their historical transgressions.

          And that’s about as racist as it gets.

          1. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            How about offering citations for the Native American genocides so readers can judge for themselves the credibility of your assertions as curricular material?

            Native American enslavement of others was not downplayed, merely not exaggerated as your presentation and in context.

            I simply did not address Black slaveholding. That is your offering. Your opinion that my statements belie racism is in your opinion.

            Historians have documented that Native Americans taking prisoners often integrated them into their bands. Y’all can check that out. Acknowledging that Native Americans engaged in the slave trade of Blacks my statement is bare of the salad you assert.

            Your whataboutism concerning the items you raise hardly speaks to accountability. Nor have I suggested such as an element of the curriculum while that is precisely what you propose. Nor did I suggest or imply anything about moral superiority of any race, white, Black, or Native American.

            If you don’t like being challenged, don’t lead with your chin.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        Well, then you have not been listening.

        The point of history is not to say “but they did bad stuff too so we don’t need to relate that aspect of history at all”.

        It’s this inane “both sides” argument.

        Jan 6 wasn’t really bad because Antifa did similar stuff.

        The point of history is to tell it all – not decide that some of should not be told because “everyone was doing bad stuff anyhow”.

  2. Cynthia  Phillips Avatar
    Cynthia Phillips

    I hope Youngkin doesn’t cave. They need to stick with what they said and not let a minority of the people decide for the majority what’s going to be taught.

    1. Hard to tell where the majority and minority lies in this case.

  3. So JAB says that it is fine to consider input from various groups and it sounds like that is what the SBOE is doing. The delay might mean that it is actually listening and not merely giving lip service. Could this finally be part of the Youngkin administration’s promised efforts to bring the Commonwealth together? Who says that there are only two paradigms? Judging by the large number of “election deniers” in the country, it does not appear that the conservative paradigm really believes that American institutions are legitimate. Of course, they could be part of a “Trumpist” paradigm. Then we close with the “transformation” of America conspiracy theory which matches that of the “great replacement” theory. It would seem that for many folks reality only exists in their heads.

  4. Omitting MLK from the K-5 standards was a huge own goal for the Republicans and a huge gift to Democrats.

    1. No, MLK was not omitted from proposed K-5 standards.

      This is directly from the Draft standards:

      K.7 Students will apply history and social science skills to explain how communities honor local and national traditions and recognize officially designated Virginia holidays, such as:

      a. George Washington’s Birthday (Presidents’ Day).
      b. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

      How will students be able to meet this criterion if they don’t know who Martin Luther King, Jr was?

    2. No, MLK was not omitted from proposed K-5 standards.

      This is directly from the Draft standards:

      K.7 Students will apply history and social science skills to explain how communities honor local and national traditions and recognize officially designated Virginia holidays, such as:

      a. George Washington’s Birthday (Presidents’ Day).
      b. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

      How will students be able to meet this criterion if they have not been taught who Martin Luther King, Jr was?

  5. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Oh my!! A rather bald admission of woke conservative paranoia concerning being outgunned by the education and intelligentsia factions in (gulp!!) “transforming” America. Such transformation will be the demise of American exceptionalism. Culture Warriors to the Alamo battlements!! This is it or Tucker Carlson’s replacement fears will come true.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Youngkin cannot marshal a bunch of supporters to go give public comment?

      Jesus H. Keeeerist… where is Bacon? Where is Sherlock?

  6. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    The Governor’s appointees already form a majority – 5 of the 9 members. I am not sure they have a full grip on the processes of the Board yet. The legacy members run it.

    More help is coming in in July of 2023. Current members whose terms are expiring are:

    Daniel A. Gecker, President
    Tammy Mann, Vice President
    Pamela Davis-Vaught

    Progressive stalwarts all.

    1. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      Replace the woke progressives with woke conservatives. New stalwarts to prevent the transformation of America.

    2. Looks like perhaps the legacy members are merely letting the majority step in it to demonstrate their incompetence.

  7. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    In response to those who present whataboutism in connection with Native American warlike and violent conduct and slave holding as evidence of a requisite to teach American history fairly and accurately, consider also the little-known or discussed influence some Native Americans had upon this nation’s founding.

    https://www.history.com/news/iroquois-confederacy-influence-us-constitution

    When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in 1787 to debate what form of government the United States should have, there were no contemporary democracies in Europe from which they could draw inspiration. The most democratic forms of government that any of the convention members had personally encountered were those of Native American nations. Of particular interest was the Iroquois Confederacy, which historians have argued wielded a significant influence on the U.S. Constitution.

    What evidence exists that the delegates studied Native governments? Descriptions of them appear in the three-volume handbook John Adams wrote for the convention surveying different types of governments and ideas about government. It included European philosophers like John Locke and Montesquieu, whom U.S. history textbooks have long identified as constitutional influences; but it also included the Iroquois Confederacy and other Indigenous governments, which many of the delegates knew through personal experience.

    1. …consider also the little-known or discussed influence some Native Americans had upon this nation’s founding.

      Yes, let’s also include that in the standards. It can serve as an example of no person or group of persons being all bad, or all good.

      1. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        Agreed. But such standard must avoid “good” and “bad” distinctions in order to refrain from the guilt issue. Any moral derivative from the standards or their classroom presentation remains to be drawn by the students and carefully curated by the teacher.

        1. But such standard must avoid “good” and “bad” distinctions in order to refrain from the guilt issue.

          Oh my gosh! You are 100% correct. I certainly do not want to open the door for value judgements to be made…

          1. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            Everyone misspeaks in a dynamic dialogue.

      2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        Are you saying that by including this contribution to the founding of our nation we can avoid the likely characterization of native Americans as “all bad”…?

        1. I disagree with your premise.

          1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            Not my premise. That seemed to be what you were saying. Or are you saying that somehow contributing to the nation’s founding shows that Native Americans are not “all good”…? 🤷‍♂️

        2. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          Too late!! Hollywood has confirmed that view for all time.

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      So Aiiiwatha and Dekanawidah made contributions equal to James Madison?

      1. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        No such claim or allegation.

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead

          The claim is a little thin. 4 or 5 broad areas of cross over between the Great Law and the Constitution. I do remember the Iroqois were given a military parade at the Continental Congress in Philly. Leaders were impressed and even gave John Hancock a nickname “Great Tree”. Joseph Brant’s faction allied with the British.

          1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            “I do remember the Iroqois were given a military parade at the Continental Congress in Philly.”

            Sounds like you were there…😉

          2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            I always started the school year with the Iroquois and Hiawatha. Great stuff!

          3. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            No suggestion of plagiarism only of some influence as contrast to the more outrageous comments about Native Americans as ignoble savages. The Founders drew from many sources to compose the Declaration of I and the Constitution. Ben Franklin acknowledged the ideas of the Iroquois Nation’s Great Peace.

          4. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Franklin was fascinated with the Iroquois. He had a long association with their leaders.

      2. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        Oh, yeah. 13 cents on a Sunday afternoon; double feature, several cartoons, a serial episode, and a news reel.

    3. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      FWIW, Chief Iron Eyes Cody was an Italian.

      1. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        I was never a Roy Rogers fan. I preferred Tom Mix.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          wow. talk about “old school” !

          😉

  8. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    The Board voted 8-0 to send the Standards back for a re-write, combining elements of both the earlier proposal and the more recent one. Note that the vote includes all 5 Youngkin appointees.

    As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Balow, the Superintendent, apologized for the reference to American Indians, the ones who were here first, as “America’s first immigrants”. ““I am deeply sorry for mislabeling, or not catching, that the American Indians were mislabeled in the standards documents,” she told reporters and pledged that it would be corrected.

    Martin Luther King Day and Juneteenth had been dropped from the list of holidays to be covered in elementary schools. The Dept of Education apparently quietly corrected that omission yesterday morning before the meeting.

    Another criticism was the lack of transparency as to who was consulted for the drafting of the proposed revised Standards and Balow was fairly coy about naming any specific consultants. Apparently, there is suspicion that persons associated with Hillsdale College in Michigan played a significant role in drafting this revision.

    Anne Holton, a former Secretary of Education and a member of the former board who was reappointed by Youngkin, complained that “Africa and Asia have disappeared from the elementary school curriculum.” She also pointed out that Ronald Reagan merited several mentions in the revised Standards, and then asked, “How many references to the first African American President Barack Obama? Zero? I don’t know how you can’t call it whitewashing.”

    Andy Rotherham, a Youngkin appointee, lamented that the document “I know is not trying to say there was lots of causes of the Civil War — the cause of it was slavery. … But it could read to somebody, just because of how it’s written, that we’re trying to say … there’s lots of causes for the Civil War besides slavery.”

    https://richmond.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/board-of-education-rejects-youngkins-proposed-revisions-to-k-12-history-standards/article_ac6dbdb1-8632-5abd-97e4-39b978982b3f.html#tracking-source=mp-homepage

    This process is obviously not going as smoothly as the administration had expected.

    1. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      “American Indians” as the continent’s “first immigrants” somehow strikes as incongruous if not oxymoronic. Mislabeled is, of course, even more nefarious. Wow!! The trouble in River City over pool is peanuts in comparison.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        If I’m understanding correctly, not only is Dick “woke” but so is Kathleen and Matt Hurtt and I’m betting James might be also.

        Mr. Whitehead, of all folks who frequent these pages is a History Teacher if not mistaken.

        I’d be curious to get his take.

        1. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          We wuz all once woke, then we got found just like we wuz all once migrants, then immigrants.

        2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead
          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Never heard of them. Learned some new ‘history’.
            Thanks!

    2. Keystone cops at work!

  9. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    Decoupling the standards from the framework from the perspective of teachers is just plain stupid. It was Northam who coupled the documents, they have been coupled since the implementation of the standards for 20 years. Aimee Guiderra has never taught in a school system that can put together a scope and sequence which is what is needed to teach.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Agree. Youngkin and company are demonstrating both their ineptness but also
      some of their motives which are less than wonderful.

      He got away with it at the election and he will still get a “pass” from hard core conservatives but as time goes by more and more others are going to see and understand what this is about and he’ll lose people who supported him originally.

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