This past week, in a letter to the Youngkin administration, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) made one thing clear: educators are not going to sign on to fight the Governor’s war on equity, diversity, and American history. In fact, the VASS specifically objected to “assumptions that discriminatory and divisive concepts have become widespread in Virginia school divisions…without having involved educators…or without having provided evidence to support that position.”
Like educators and parents all over the Commonwealth, Virginia’s superintendents are pushing back on Youngkin’s performative crusade to “restore excellence” in Virginia public schools. I am hopeful that our public schools will adhere to the Virginia Department of Education’s prior commitment to “identify and dismantle all iterations of racism and inequity that permeate our public education system."
Why are Youngkin and a very loud minority of Virginians so upset about equity? After all, the reason we have Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies is to promote the representation and participation of different groups — people of different ages, races, ethnicities, abilities, genders, religions, cultures, and sexual orientation. Why is inclusivity in our public education systems, which are anglo-, hetero-, and Christian-centered, so controversial?
Last year, when my daughter was a first grader in the Chesapeake Public School system, she learned about George Washington. He chopped down a cherry tree. He was a general in the American Revolution. He was the first US President. That’s it. She did not learn that he owned more than 100 people in his lifetime – people who were separated from their families on Mount Vernon and forced to work his 8,000 acre plantation six days a week from dawn to dusk.
Is it equitable to teach about Washington’s accomplishments but not his character? I don’t think so. Yet, for all the talk about how CRT has infiltrated Virginia public schools, I didn’t learn that Washington was a cruel slave owner when I was in school, and almost 50 years later, my daughter didn’t learn it either.
When we understand that 45% of the delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention, 67% of the first 18 US Presidents, and 43% of the first Congress enslaved Africans, we can be clear-eyed that our constitutional documents, our laws, and our institutions were built by those sympathetic to and complicit in American slavery. If there is any way to rectify the inherent inequity built into those documents and our existing laws, we should do it.
Two-hundred years after the country was founded, the assertion that we should not seek equity in education and greater society is absolutely absurd. It’s the worst type of race-baited, fear-mongering. The question that we should be asking Governor Youngkin is why this is still a problem in 2022, and what he will do about it. Running from it won’t fix it. We need courageous educators, parents, school board leaders, and citizens to continue to make the case for education equity in the Commonwealth. VASS took the lead in doing that this past week, and I commend them for it.
Like the cut of my jib?
My name is Tiffany Thompson, and I’m running for Chesapeake School Board. It’s time to restore civility, common sense, and community in our public schools. To support my campaign, please consider making a donation.