Virginians weigh in on proposed history and social sciences standards of learning

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 12:22 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - At least once every seven years, the Virginia Department of Education works on revisions to standards of learning. The proposed changes to history and social sciences have been in the spotlight since the fall of 2022.

More than 50 Virginians went to a public hearing at the O. Winston Link and History Museum of Western Virginia, with more than 30 voicing their opinions.

“Governor Youngkin kind of hijacked the process under his administration, rejected the document from August 2022 and then wrote his own document that just had a lot of really absurd standards,” said Emily Yen, a staff researcher with the Virginia Education Association.

Virginians against the current revisions gathered before the meeting and were accompanied by Roanoke leaders. They say vital pieces of history are being left out.

“One of the key issues that we see is being deleted, is reference to labor history. The current standards have several pieces of labor history and this takes out the connections between the New Deal and why we have a 40-hour workweek. The Fair Labor Standards Act is not in here and we just see that as a huge problem. We also see that labor history is inextricably linked to civil rights history,” said Yen.

“It is time to tell the whole story. What is being proposed will take this country backwards,” said Penny Franklin, vice-chair of the Montgomery County School Board at the meeting.

But not everyone felt the same way. Amy Snead shared some of what she’s heard from Bedford County teachers.

“I was really encouraged by proposed SOL’s. Older versions left room for individual interpretation, which really is not necessary with teaching history. All in all, I would be happy to see these SOL’s approved,” said Snead, speaking for one of the teachers.

Snead also shared she’s in favor of them being approved, as well.

“There’s a good focus on the foundational elements of our government, and especially for the younger students focusing on citizenship and responsibility, actions and consequences for the decisions that you make in life and really taking that foundation upon which they can build them for the rest of their academic future,” said Snead.

Public comment will continue to be heard until March 21 and a decisions on the plan is expected in April. Virginia Board of Education members present at the meeting declined on-camera interviews.