RICHMOND, Va. — The President-Elect of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) said a member of the Virginia Board of Education "misrepresented" the group when she called their website "divisive and controversial" in a recent board meeting about revisions to the state's History and Social Studies SOLs.
Suparna Dutta, who was appointed by Governor Glenn Youngkin (R - Virginia) to the board this year, said she found the NCSS website "disturbing."
"It talks about a narrative through the lens of those who created and continue to benefit from American cultural institutions. It says white, financially secure, Christian, cisgender males. That's one of the views stated on their website. It says school districts are the most active battlefield in the American culture wars today," Dutta said.
Dutta also said she was concerned with some of the themes and concepts laid out in the revisions. The themes that concerned her included: conflict and power relationships, Colonialism, servitude, and racism "rather than traditional American values of individual liberty and economic freedom subject to due process under the law."
But, Wesley Hedgepeth, a Social Studies teacher at the Collegiate School in Henrico County, said "curriculum should not be solely through the lens of those who created and continue to benefit from American cultural institutions."
Hedgepeth, who is President-Elect of NCSS, sent the CBS 6 Problem Solvers a statement in response to Dutta's comments.
"Students should have access to the entire story of us," he said.
NCSS was brought up during a VDOE board meeting last Wednesday because the draft revisions to the state's History and Social Studies standards of learning include recommendations made by the group, such as a focus on inquiry-based learning.
NCSS is the largest professional association in the country devoted to Social Studies education.
Dutta said she didn't agree with the revisions' focus on "inquiry-based learning."
"Empirical research has shown that minimal guidance is significantly less effective and efficient. Only when learners have a solid base can they learn from experienced-based pedagogy," Dutta said. "To introduce something called inquiry learning at this time of pandemic catastrophic loss is backward in my view."
"Inquiry is in fact the bedrock upon which any historical analysis rests," Hedgepeth countered. "It is through inquiry that students learn to think critically, form their own questions, compile research, and act on their new found knowledge."
Under state mandate, the Virginia Department of Education has to revise its History and Social Studies standards of learning every seven years.
The revision process for the standards began when former Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, was in charge and there were a majority of Democratic appointees on the board.
After Governor Glenn Youngkin's election, the new Republican governor appointed a new Superintendent and five new members to the Board of Education, including Dutta.
"Teachers do not bring personal political affiliations or ideologies into their classroom, so politicians should not bring theirs into curriculum decisions either," Hedgepeth said.
Public comment is due by September 25 on the proposed revisions and community engagement sessions will take place in October and November.