Home Education Gov. Ralph Northam’s Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, Says Newly Revised Youngkin...

Gov. Ralph Northam’s Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, Says Newly Revised Youngkin Administration History Education Standards Get a “D” Grade, Remain Heavily “Whitewashed”

That's sharply down from the "A" grade for the Northam administration's history education standards.


Atif Qarni, who served as VA Secretary of Education during the administration of Gov. Ralph Northam, among many other things (e.g., dealing with the deadly COVID pandemic, increasing teacher pay, investing in K-12 public education and early childhood education) led an effort to revamp Virginia’s history education standards. For more background on that, see Virginia Commission on African-American History Education Member Maria Burgos on Culturally Proficient Schools, Racism, “White Fragility,” “Blackface,” Ralph Northam, etc.; Makya Renée Little, a Member of the Va. Commission on African-American History Education, on How She Got Involved, What the Recommendations Are Looking Like; etc. Good stuff.

Unfortunately, since Glenn Youngkin became governor, he has relentlessly attacked public education in general, and the full teaching of American history – the good (many accomplishments, no question), the bad and the ugly (e.g., slavery, Jim Crow,  racism, lynchings, the disgraceful internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II, the horrendous treatment of Native Americans) – in particular. In doing so, Youngkin has massively backtracked on what WOULD have been and SHOULD have been a major upgrade in Virginia’s history education standards and curriculum from what it was prior to Gov. Northam’s administration to cutting-edge, “A”-grade history standards under Northam’s and Qarni’s leadership.

Instead, Youngkin first proposed these whitewashed, “revisionist” history standards which would have “prevent[ed] Virginia’s students from learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks until 6th grade” and which were “replete with inaccuracies and material omissions”, plus “full of historical errors” and “in bad faith.” Disastrous, in other words – an “F” grade for sure. Faced with massive public backlash, the Youngkin administration tried yet again, preparing new/somewhat less “whitewashed” draft standards that were accepted for review on February 2 by the Virginia Board of Education on a party-line vote, with public hearings set for March 13-21.

So with that background, here’s a presentation put together by former VA Secretary Atif Qarni, looking at the newly revised draft standards. According to Qarni, these standards get an overall grade of “D” from him, with major flaws including:

  • According to Qarni, the new draft history education standards remain “whitewashed” – although less so then the previous, fatally flawed draft – and “still [ignore] the recommendations of AAEHC and [the] Culturally Relevant and Inclusive Education Practice Advisory Committee.”
  • The new draft standards: replace Indigenous People’s Day with Columbus Day; add in Christmas “while there is no mention of any other religious holidays”; initially added in Ronald Reagan and left out Barack Obama (the nation’s first African-American president); omit “Japanese internment, Chinese Exclusion Act, and many other forms of discrimination “[wipe] away to a mere mention even worse than 2015 standards”; omits mention of Cesar Chavez in Middle School and High School standards; does not fully follow state law; ignored “voices of numerous…Black and Brown voices who worked from August 2019 to July 2021”; fails to fully tell the stories of groups that have been “historically underrepresented in American and world history”; fails to fully cover “how increased levels of hate, ridicule and dehumanization led to larger acts of violence and state-sponsored discrimination and violence”; etc.

In sum, the newly revised Virginia history education standards, while somewhat improved from the completely failed first draft by the Youngkin administration, still is far, FAR worse than what the Northam administration had developed – a “D” instead of an “A” grade, as Atif Qarni puts it. If you’re a Virginia parent, and if your kid brings home a “D” grade, would you be satisfied with that? Nope, didn’t think so.


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