Restoring Trust in Institutions

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by Matt Hurt

Over the last several years, it has become widely accepted that trust in our institutions has declined. Ultra-tribalism has infected almost every aspect of public discourse, which has certainly enriched the war chests of our politicians on both sides of the aisle. On April 20, 2023, the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) provided a wonderful example of how this trend can be reversed.

The VBOE has been in the process of updating Virginia’s history Standards of Learning for over two years. Unfortunately, history is the subject which has become targeted by different political/ideological factions.  Some argued that certain versions of the standards were intended to promote a specific ideology.  Others argued that other versions attempted to whitewash history. This work has drawn fire from both progressives and conservatives, and it is doubtful that either side will be satisfied with the end result.

Currently, the VBOE consists of four members selected by Governor Northam and five members selected by Governor Youngkin. The debate among board members about specific aspects of the proposed standards aligned largely around political affiliation. The discussions were rigorous, and it was evident that folks on either side of the issue were very passionate about their beliefs. However, throughout the discussion and debate, it was evident that board members worked diligently to honor and respect the concerns of those with whom they disagreed.

These individuals were able to work together through the process that had been established to produce standards in Virginia. After the unanimous vote to approve the standards, board members reflected on the process, which can be viewed here. The discussion after the vote should serve as an example of how other bodies can work together, follow established processes, and help to reestablish public trust in institutions. The Virginia Board of Education members should be commended!

Matt Hurt is director of the Comprehensive Instructional Program.

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11 responses to “Restoring Trust in Institutions”

  1. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    It was close at the end with the word “restore.” Seems like one side wanted a different word in the description. Good job Dr Hurt.

    1. VaNavVet Avatar

      It is hard to take joy in the fact of a politicized institution.

      1. Agreed. That’s why I’m glad Northam’s appointees are now in the minority.

  2. Charles D'Aulnais Avatar
    Charles D’Aulnais

    My trust in our government has remained consistently high throughout my lifetime. The only thing that changes from time to time are my expectations.

  3. M. Purdy Avatar

    One thing I was heartened by was the unanimous rejection of the first set of proposed standards last Nov. Because we can all leave politics aside when something is that egregiously bad. Kudos to the board.

  4. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Good point, Matt.

  5. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    TY, Mr. Hurt for capturing sentiments not often expressed on BR. Hopefully, there will be more to come.

  6. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Glad to see this drama is done. The History Standards are a work in progress. 7 more years until the next revision and renewal of culture war clash. The 11th grade standards for US History are not bad. Really not very different from 2015 edition. There is still a great deal of important Virginia history that weaves into the American story that is not explored. These standards are a minimum bar of mastery. You can finish this course by December if you know how to teach. I hope to see a more vigorous version in 2030.

    1. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      Perhaps Mr. Hurt will be proven correct and your vision of a renewed culture clash will not materialize.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        There has always been a back and forth tussle over these standards. Front page news today. 20 years ago it was buried in the Metro Section or a Jay Mathews column.

  7. vicnicholls Avatar

    Its not just in institutions but where folks will stop commenting because it doesn’t match with their ideals.

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