The Virginia State Conference NAACP (Virginia NAACP) recently issued a statement expressing its outrage at Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Executive Order One regarding how history should be taught in Virginia’s schools, and the subsequent interim Department of Education (DOE) report submitted to begin compliance with the order by Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.
The NAACP charges that Superintendent Balow has “in effect declared war on teaching accurate American history by erroneously characterizing truth as divisive and outlawing previous efforts to bring about racial equity”.
In a letter dated Feb. 23 to Gov. Youngkin, Balow wrote that she and her office have been charged to identify policies, programs, training or curricula that fall within the definition of “divisive concepts”, as expressed in the Governor’s order.
Balow wrote that the current “policies, programs, and resources that promote discriminatory and divisive concepts as directed by Executive Order One” have become “widespread in the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and in Virginia school divisions and we will need to proactively review policies, practices, and pedagogies around the state to uphold the Civil Rights Act and comport with Executive Order One.”
Amy Tillerson-Brown, Ph.D., and chair of the Virginia NAACP Education Committee said none of the resources Balow requested be rescinded or modified “are discriminatory in that they do not promote unjust or prejudicial treatment based on race or gender. Instead, these recommendations will work to unravel the progress our Commonwealth has made towards racial equity in education.”
She continued, “The Governor cannot perpetuate this false narrative of ‘divisive concepts.’ Virginia students have the right to an education that is accurate and without censorship.
“Virginia has a long torrid history as it pertains to educating Black children. Black slaves in Virginia were prohibited by law and practice from learning to read or write.
Even when Virginia established a free public education system, educating Black children were a complete afterthought.
Virginia NAACP President Robert N. Barnette, Jr. added, “It is apparent that the Governor has no real interest in teaching our shared history. You cannot characterize truth as divisive and be open to teaching history accurately.”
In August 2021, the Virginia NAACP issued a press release affirming the importance of teaching Black history in public schools. It noted the mission of the NAACP is to “…inform the public of the adverse effects of racial discrimination and to seek its elimination…”.
“We are obligated to protest this administration’s attempt to falsify American history through omission of critically important facts,” NAACP officials said in the civil right organization’s recent statement on Superintendent Balow.