More than 50 people weigh in on proposed changes to history SOLs

More than 150 people attended and 58 of them had a chance to weigh in on the proposal.
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 10:51 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Virginia Board of Education is proposing changes to the Standards of Learning in both history and social studies. On Wednesday, March 15, the board held a public hearing at Piedmont Virginia Community College to get feedback. More than 150 people attended and 58 of them had a chance to weigh in on the proposal. They did not hold back.

”We’re here because a year ago, Governor Glenn Youngkin stripped three of Governor Northam’s appointees off the Board of Education for the express purpose of fast tracking these curriculum changes,” 57th District Delegate Sally Hudson (D) said.

The Standards of Learning (SOLs) are rewritten every seven years. A first draft was written in August 2022, but Governor Youngkin’s administration created a new draft in January 2023 - a draft that some say leaves out key pieces of history.

“Simply put, those in power don’t want to be challenged, so they’re trying to eliminate the history of working people because they’re terrified of the power of working people,” SEIU Virginia 512 Union President David Broder said.

Outside of the public hearing, there was a rally to protest the changes to the SOL, specifically the elimination of labor union history.

“It’s important that they hear just how many people all across Virginia are enthusiastic about getting our kids the kind of history education they deserve, and don’t want to go backward with these new standards,” Hudson said.

Out of the almost 60 speakers - the majority opposed this version of the SOLs for a few different reasons.

“This draft does not allow Asian American and Pacific Islander communities or, frankly, any marginalized community to be taught comprehensively or accurately in Virginia,” public commenter Zowee Aquino said.

Others brought up issues with what they say is degrading language, excessive memorization criteria, and elimination of women’s history.

“It’s also really critical that we are teaching the full history of civil rights, and that we are teaching about the ways that white supremacy shows up in our past and in our present. We’re never going to achieve economic justice if we’re not also fighting for racial justice,” Broder said.

A handful of attendees disagreed.

“I feel like folks are treating these standards as if they’re curriculum and expecting every little, tiny thing to be covered,” Fordham Institute Vice President and Richmond resident Amber Northern said.

Northern says the new draft is a big improvement from 2015 and should be accepted.

“If folks realized all the improvements that have been made, and the fact that the last set of standards were missing a lot of the problems and had the same issues that the current state of standards have fixed,” Northern said.

When implemented, these standards will affect all Virginia schools.

“I think we all know that a great history education is the foundation for the rest of your life,” Hudson said.

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