By some accounts, Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin won the office in part thanks to his campaign pledge to ban critical race theory, an issue that’s become the subject of explosive debate in some Virginia school systems.
Nearly two months after the election, though, Youngkin has done little to elaborate on his promise. In general, the governor-elect has largely avoided media appearances since his victory. But he’s also turned down requests to discuss the issue of critical race theory specifically. The Mercury has twice reached out and requested interviews on his educational priorities, including how a ban on critical race theory could be accomplished in practice. In both cases, a spokesperson responded that he “would not be able to accommodate a phone interview.”
I asked Youngkin about his post-election promise to be open w/ press. He’s granted very few interviews after his win, one w/ Tucker Carlson.
“We’ve been working really hard on the transition,” Youngkin says. Appearances will “increase once I am actually sworn in as governor.” https://t.co/tXhV2hjczR
— Ben Paviour (@BPaves) December 16, 2021
In reality, education policy experts say there’s no clear path for Youngkin to implement any kind of statewide ban on critical race theory, a term that’s expanded to include virtually any discussions and trainings around equity or antiracism in local school systems. Youngkin’s campaign, for instance, pointed to nearly a dozen “clear examples of critical race theory in Virginia,” which covered a wide range of state-level and local activity.
One was a [2019 memo] from James Lane, the state’s superintendent for public instruction, which covered “resources to support student and community dialogues on racism.” The communication, sent out to division superintendents, had a reading list that included “White Fragility” by author Robin DiAngelo and “Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education,” an academic text that also explores how the discipline moved from legal studies to the educational field.
Other examples included a series of equity conferences and webinars sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education — optional professional development tools for teachers and administrators. Some lectures posted by the department have explicitly focused on antiracism or posited that the United States was founded on White supremacy. One lecture, an “Anti racism 101” seminar hosted on the Virginia Department of Education’s YouTube page as part of a state equity summit, included a slide titled “interrogating whiteness” and featured academics from the VCU School of Education imploring education leaders to “force yourself to always see race, especially if you’re White” and suggested educators who don’t work to dismantle institutional racism are complicit in the “spirit murdering of our Black and brown students.”
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