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Audio: Fairfax County School Board Members Stella Pekarsky and Laura Jane Cohen Rip “Absurd” Legislation to Ban Teaching of “Divisive Concepts”

Laura Jane Cohen adds: "Should a nurse practitioner and a cyber security expert decide educational curriculum?"


As you’re no doubt aware, Republicans/right wingers across the country (e.g., in Florida, Texas, Indiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Michigan…) are busy trying to stop schools from teaching about anything that might cause white students, or their white parents, “discomfort.” Of course, as Bess Levin wrote in Vanity Fair the other day:

Despite constantly claiming liberals are easily “triggered” “snowflakes,” are Republicans actually the most ridiculously sensitive people on earth? So much so that they can’t stand the idea of factually accurate conversations about race in this country that might paint white people in an uncomfortable light? And are now going so far as to try to effectively ban said conversations, because sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling “LA LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU” when the topic comes up isn’t working? If you’re unsure, let us clear it up for you: The answer is hell yes.

Sadly, this lunacy is also happening right here in Virginia, where  Glenn Youngkin just (narrowly) won an election after running a classic “Southern Strategy” campaign based on demagoguery and fearmongering, largely about race. Also, we now have State Senator Jennifer Kiggans (R) – a candidate for US House in VA02 to take on Rep. Elaine Luria (D) – carrying this Youngkin-supported bill, which would “[require] each public elementary or secondary school principal to ensure that no curriculum utilized or instruction delivered in the school includes inherently divisive concepts, as that term is defined in the bill.” Crazy,  stupid, dangerous, disgusting stuff…on par with book banning and other efforts to whitewash history, to turn education into state-approved orthodoxy, etc.  Presumably, Kiggans’ godawful legislation will be summarily deep-sixed in the Democratic-controlled State Senate, but don’t be surprised if bills like this come back next session…and the next, and the next, etc.

For some informed thoughts on this topic, click here for a discussion with Fairfax County School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky and Fairfax County School Board member Laura Jane Cohen – both of whom are superb, by the way. The interviewer, Michael Pope, asks them what they think of “inherently divisive concepts” (whatever that means), and of Sen. Kiggans’ bill to prohibit those “inherently divisive concepts” from being taught. See below for their responses, which are basically that this entire idea is completely absurd.


Michael Pope: “So I want to move on to ‘inherently divisive  concepts’ now. This is a part of the Glenn Youngkin’s day one agenda’ game plan/legislative agenda…So the governor gave this bill to Republican Senator Jen Kiggins of Virginia Beach; she’s carrying the bill to prohibit what the legislation calls ‘inherently
divisive concepts’ from schools across Virginia. So like, what exactly is an ‘inherently divisive concept’? The bill introduced by Senator Kiggans defines that as anything that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So Laura Jane Cohen, should Jim Crow be expelled from the curriculum?

Laura Jane Cohen: “Well you know we could start with, like should a nurse practitioner and a cyber security expert decide educational curriculum? I could easily answer that one for you. Look, it’s just absurd on its face. I don’t know how deep you really need to dive to say the subjective nature of what is divisive, and the idea that even concepts that maybe we all agree were divisive – the civil rights movements certainly being one of them – who better than our state-certified educators who learn how to teach our kids about these incredibly important, seminal events in our history, who better than teachers to teach kids about this? I mean, good gracious, from the…Revolutionary War on, what big moment in our history is not considered divisive? I mean, it’s just absurd, it’s hardly worth the effort to elevate it to something that’s real, because it’s so absurd.”

Stella Pekarsky: “I’m glad how you…talked about our educators, because really, what’s our goal of education? We want to create critical thinkers, we want our students to ask questions and look at different perspectives. And you know, ‘divisive concepts’, I mean, what does that mean exactly in the context of what we’re doing? Divisive for whom?”


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