FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — Virginia's largest school system is removing a test question given to a college-level social studies class that equated liberals and conservatives with specific racial and gender demographics.
The question appeared on a test given to students of an AP Government class at Fairfax County Public Schools' Online Campus.
The multiple-choice question asked students, “Which of the following is an accurate comparison of liberals versus conservatives?”
The potential answers for “liberals” included:
- Young, white males
- Middle-aged, urban lesbian
- College-educated black male professional
- White, upper-middle-class suburban males
The potential answers for “conservatives” included:
- East Coast, Ivy League-educated scientists
- Southern male migrant laborer
- Catholic, midwestern middle-aged male
- West coast, Hispanic teacher
Rory Cooper, a Fairfax County parent and school system critic who posted the question on Twitter, said it is offensive.
“It's one thing for adults to analyze demographic trends,” he said. “It's another to tell students that their identity defines their political philosophy.”
The school system said in a statement that the question will be removed from future tests because it “did not meet the division's high expectations.” It also said all test questions administered to students in the AP Government Online Campus class will now be reviewed.
The statement said the question was “designed to assess 12th graders’ understanding of American political ideology.”
The test is part of an AP, or Advanced Placement, class that allows high-school students to earn college credit if they score well on a final exam.
While the question was part of an AP class, it was not created by the College Board, which administers the AP program nationally.
In a tweet, the College Board said the question “is antithetical to the content and format of an AP question.”
Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears weighed in as well, criticizing the assumptions the question makes about who is liberal and who is conservative. She has frequently bristled at outsiders' political assumptions about Black women that are at odds with her stance as a conservative Republican and military veteran.
“Tests like these create division, low morale, fights in our schools,” she wrote in one tweet.
This is not a question from the AP program. It is antithetical to the content and format of an AP question.— College Board (@CollegeBoard) March 11, 2023
The question is just the latest in a series of critiques that have been levied against public educators. Conservative activists have questioned curricula that they say promote progressive ideology over education fundamentals.
The debate has been particularly intense in Virginia, where Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has made education reform a priority and has sought to change how schools deal with transgender students.
Earlier this year, Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares announced an investigation of the school system after reports that high schools withheld letters of commendation on standardized tests from some students on the theory that it would hurt the feelings of students who didn't receive them.
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