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George Washington shouldn’t be called ‘Father of our Country,’ Virginia proposes, then reverses

Classroom (Wokandapix/Pixabay)
August 16, 2022

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) said an “inadvertent” error led to a proposal that would prevent George Washington from being referred to as the “Father of our Country” and James Madison from being called the “Father of the Constitution” in history and social science curriculum.

ABC7 News first reported the changes on Monday, but the VDOE reviewed the proposed changes and said they were a mistake. 

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“Note the reference to this content being moved to VS.7a. It wasn’t,” a VDOE spokesperson told 7News. “This was inadvertent — something that was supposed to be done but wasn’t — in making updates and edits to a 400-plus page document. The omission of the “Father of our Country” and “Father of the Constitution” language from VS.7a was noted in July – after the Board of Education meeting was canceled. The correction was made (adding the bullet to VS.7a) in an August 4 version of the draft SOLs [Standard of learning] that will be uploaded to the VDOE website today.”

VDOE reviews testing standards every seven years and may propose changes for the Board of Education to review.

The error comes at a time when the Virginia Board of Education is politically split, with four members of the board appointed by Democrat governors and five members appointed by the current governor, Republican Glenn Youngkin. The board is set to discuss a number of potential changes to education standards this week in Richmond. 

This round of proposed changes comes after testing standards were reviewed by a commission on African-American history education and a Culturally Inclusive Practice Advisory Committee.

“There was a lot of debate about what to strike, what to add, and so forth. And they came to a very broad consensus that they went line by line, of course, with an itemized list,” said Atif Qarni, the former secretary of education under Gov. Ralph Northam. “Some of these changes were also done with the staff at the Department of Education who were doing their own research into what’s the best way to frame things and educate on what was working out there.”

“I do feel that, right now, we’re headed in a direction that is not really healthy for our educators and staff and that’s why they’re leaving in big numbers,” said Qarni. “You see that in the recent reports. So my recommendation for the Board of Education would be to really elevate the educators because they are on the front line supporting our children and try to get away from some of this toxic narrative that’s been created by the Youngkin administration.”

Supara Dutta, a new Youngkin appointee, recommended parents read the proposed changes and tell the board their thoughts on the matter.  

“Many parents have heard the governor say from time to time we want to teach the kids how to think not what to think,” said Dutta. “So I think that it would be great to be able to have a good, honest discussion and a full discussion about some of the changes that are coming up and the Social History and Social Sciences curriculum.”

Last year, a locket of George Washington’s hair was sold at auction, raking in tens of thousands of dollars.