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Youngkin slams proposal that removes Benjamin Franklin from Virginia history curriculum

Youngkin slams proposal that removes Benjamin Franklin from Virginia history curriculum (WJLA)
Youngkin slams proposal that removes Benjamin Franklin from Virginia history curriculum (WJLA)
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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is speaking out against proposed changes to the state's history curriculum.

“We have to slow down," Youngkin told WJLA on Saturday.

WJLA was the first to reveal that references to George Washington as “the father of our country” and James Madison as the “father of the Constitution” were struck from proposed history curriculum standards. Also, the word "succession" was used instead of "secession" – twice – in the proposal.

"The previous [Northam] administration had appointed all of the folks on those committees, we see not just mistakes but errors in this aspiration to have a history and social sciences curriculum that teaches all history, the good and the bad, and in fact, accurately reflects it," Youngkin said. "And for the father of our country, George Washington, to no longer be called the father of our country, and for the father of our Constitution, James Madison to no longer be called the father of our Constitution are just two small glaring errors that are going to have to be fixed. So I was very pleased. I was pleased that the State Board of Education stepped back, granted additional time for further review before these most important history curriculum standards are released for public comment. We're doing our work. That's why Virginians granted us the license to lead last year. We are in fact going to do the work and make sure that we have the best history curriculum in the nation."

Currently, Virginia's history curriculum standards advise public schools to teach students to describe how the contributions of Benjamin Franklin and Christopher Columbus changed the lives of Americans.

The proposed changes would strike Franklin and Columbus from the history curriculum standards and replace Franklin and Columbus with opportunities to “incorporate into the local curriculum using learning experiences.”

WJLA also learned the proposed changes would delete a section that says students will "demonstrate knowledge of Virginia history by describing important events and people in the history of the Commonwealth, including famous Virginians, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who helped form a new nation.”

"We want to be the standard of excellence in telling the entire history of our state, our nation, the good and the bad," Youngkin added. "And recognizing that we cannot misrepresent the role of our founding fathers in getting this extraordinary nation moving in a way, started in a way that reflects the values of America. Listen, this country was founded by imperfect men in pursuit of a more perfect union. And the tremendous strides that we have made cannot be ignored and we can do that while telling all of our history the good and the bad."

On Sunday, WJLA also spoke with former Gov. Ralph Northam’s secretary of education about Youngkin’s Board of Education voting to delay the proposal.

"The reason I'm disappointed is because of the past rhetoric," said Atif Qarni. "It makes me really apprehensive to see what they will do with the standards. And then the second reason is that they really need to hit the field so the teachers can start preparing. Because the further we delay it really makes it difficult for teachers to really prepare to teach the standards. The second part of the question going forward, I would just really encourage the board when they meet in September to go ahead and pass them. I realized they were technical edits, which I'm really surprised because we've had eight months under the Youngkin administration to get these rolled out. I was disappointed the governor took that [SOL errors] and politicized that even though it's his Department of Ed, which made those technical edits and how to spell secession versus succession. But those technical edits, they can be done in a matter of days. They have a full staff of the Department of Education to fix those technical edits, and let's get these standards out to the field to start preparing."

Qarni fears the proposal will be delayed by the Board of Education again and he's concerned about possible revisions from the Youngkin administration.

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"They have the Fordham Institute, which is a conservative think tank, which doesn't have expertise in history," said Qarni. "So it makes me nervous because I've seen their work in the past which, you know, there's philosophical differences there. I've also seen Gov. Youngkin's rhetoric about CRT and equity and diversity and inclusion and so that's why it really makes me nervous. That's why I do feel from my observations that there is a resistance to really to teach a full honest history especially of black and brown voices. There are numerous examples that I can give where there's untold stories of contributions and challenges. So the standard new revisions allow us to do that. So that's why I'm really really worried is that they will continue to come up with excuses to delay. And what my worst fear is that people will kind of forget about this, this is delayed more, and this will just go by the wayside for this full academic year. That's my biggest worry."

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