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Action Alerts, Advocacy, History Education


State & Local (US)

AHA Topics

K–12 Education

The American Historical Association (AHA) has continued to monitor with concern the revisions process for proposed History and Social Science Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools. Now, the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) wants to hear from members of the public in preparation for final review. The AHA encourages you to make your voice heard.

Take Action to Support Virginia History Education

WHAT? Provide written comments to the Board of Education and attend one or more of six public hearings around the state.

WHEN? Now through March 21, 2023. Each public hearing will begin at 7:00 p.m. Registration of speakers will begin at 6:30 p.m.

WHERE? Full details are available on the Virginia Department of Education website.

  • March 13 – Jamestown Settlement, Williamsburg
  • March 14 – George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon
  • March 15 – Piedmont Community College, Charlottesville
  • March 16 – O. Winston Link & History Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke
  • March 20 – Southwest Higher Education Center, Abingdon
  • March 21 – Robert Russa Moton Museum, Farmville

HOW? Appearing in person to testify at public hearings and submitting written comments by March 21.

WHO? You! Bring friends, family, and colleagues. The Board of Education needs to hear from professional historians, teachers, parents, students, and concerned community members.

The AHA has prepared a briefing memo for Virginians who wish to provide comments to the Board of Education.

All professional historians in Virginia might wish to emphasize:

  • The problematic presentation of the history of slavery. The standards ascribe sole responsibility for the “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade” to “Western African Empires” (WHII.6d); imply that indentured servitude (“bonded labor”) was a “type of slavery” (VUS.3b); and remove the term racism (mentioned 22 times in the original August draft) from any of the actual course-level standards.
  • Concern about a misguided focus on “great individuals” and a “singular broad civilization” at the expense of historical thinking.
  • An ahistorical understanding of American exceptionalism that denies change over time.

If you are a Virginia parent, grandparent, or guardian (or otherwise wish to stand up for history, civics, and social studies education in our state), you might want to emphasize:

  • The staggering increase in specific content—including 132 entirely new standards with no additional instructional time.
  • How the standards currently demand rote memorization of long lists of names and terms at the expense of critical thinking and information literacy.
  • The dangers of putting politics before the educational priorities of our children. The standards include an unnecessary introduction full of loaded language about preventing “teacher-created curriculum” and ideological statements about socialism.

If you are a history or social studies teacher in Virginia, you might want to emphasize:

  • What is lost when history courses culminate with the 1960s, as if the last six decades are little more than an afterthought. The standards ignore or brush over the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and present 9/11 as the final chapter in the Cold War (USII.7e).
  • The omission (and, in many cases, deletion) of pivotal topics, including the bubonic plague, fascism, militarism, racism, labor movements, the Transcontinental Railroad, the 2008 Financial Crisis, Medicare, the Great Society, and the Reagan Revolution.
  • How the dramatic increase in course content will make it difficult to focus on local history and develop lessons in collaboration with museums and other organizations.
  • The failure to adequately address critical moments in Virginia history. The standards ignore Dunmore’s Proclamation and fail to single out the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon. They limit coverage of Bacon’s Rebellion, the Virginia Slave Code of 1705, Powhatan, and Werowocomoco, among other topics, to courses in elementary school where they are least appropriate developmentally.

If you want to support teaching history with integrity but do not live in Virginia, you might consider:

  • Spreading the word about efforts to preserve the integrity of history standards in Virginia and other states.
  • Contacting your local, state, and national elected officials to share your concerns about the politicization of history education.
  • Speaking with or writing for local media outlets about the importance of history education.
  • Supporting educational organizations in your area.
  • Running for school board in your community.

Thank you for your support of this important civic process and ensuring Virginia students receive an education grounded in honest history.