Ever year, Senators and Delegates are assailed with complaints that our history books don’t tell “the real story.” The implication is that they only tell the story of white people settling America and fail to mention anybody else.
Yet the irony is that these very same voices are now on the verge of eliminating the third grade history SOL which specifically tests a curriculum drawn to give a diverse perspective on world and Virginia history.
Currently, the third grade curriculum for “history and social sciences” teaches students about classical civilization beginning with Greece and Rome. It also teaches them about the kingdom of Mali which shaped the culture of West Africa, from which our African-American population originates. Finally, it teaches about the early European explorers who came to the New World and the native tribes they met.
And, yes, the history SOL tests the students on these topics which are taught in broad strokes. The whole purpose is to educate our students and give them an idea of the people who founded Virginia — before they began their ultimate journey. This education does not inhibit the learning of basic skills like reading. It encourages it. It also segues nicely into the traditional “History of Virginia” curriculum which has been taught in fourth grade classrooms, since I was a tyke at J.C. Wood Elementary in Fairfax City.
This year, the Assembly has passed multiple “SOL reform” bills like HB 930 and SB 270 which seek to reduce the number of tests. That’s fine. But the elimination of the third grade history SOL, which is proposed as part of these bills, would be a major setback in our effort to educate students about their world and themselves.
Today, as co-chair of the Civics Education Commission, I authored a letter to the Governor to save this SOL test and the curriculum on which it relies. I was joined in the letter by Delegate Rich Anderson (R-Woodbridge), who co-chairs our commission.
Over the next few weeks, the Governor will have a chance to consider these ideas and make amendments on bills. With my letter and this post, I’m hoping to get some public input so that this curriculum and this test can be saved.
We all had a history before we came to these shores. It’s worth teaching our kids about that, before we introduce Virginia history.